Humour helped field officer support others

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Society field officer Doreen MacManus met her first two carers of clients with motor neurone disease, she cried – 21 years later the crying has stopped and the laughter flows.

Mrs MacManus is leaving her field officer position this week.

After meeting the first two carers, Mrs MacManus was left daunted by the implications of the disease.

“I thought, I can’t do this,” Mrs MacManus said.

After a discussion with the society’s grief counsellor, who advised she would be concerned if clients’ situations did not evoke emotion, Mrs MacManus decided the job was for her.

Now she found it difficult to say goodbye. It had been an emotional time.

“I’ve never been hugged so much in all my life – I’ve had clients tell me I can’t leave,” she said.

Mrs MacManus had about 100 clients with a variety of conditions ranging from Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, MS and Multiple Symptom Atrophy.

Clients with other rare neurological diseases also came under the society’s umbrella, she said.

When making the decision to leave, Mrs MacManus did not realise it would be such a wrench.

“I didn’t realise it was going to be so tough leaving,” she said.

The area she covered to visit clients was extensive and included Southland rural areas and townships through to West Otago but excluding Invercargill, Bluff and Riverton, she said.

A previous nursing career had stood Mrs MacManus in good stead for the field officer role.

She had totally enjoyed the interaction with the clients.

During the years she had built up a wealth of knowledge from experience and from attending conferences. Often strategies she used were not found in textbooks, she said.

“The people have been amazing. They trusted [me] and shared their journey,” she said.

Humour was a big part of her client interaction. A sense of humour was an essential ingredient of the job – laughter was the best medicine.

“My philosophy was if I can’t help clients and carers with any physical [aids], I always like to leave them with a smile on their face.”

During her tenure there had been a lot of progress with MS treatment.

“They are getting on MS treatment usually just after they are diagnosed, therefore it works a lot better.”

However, she was disappointed there was no treatment to halt progressive MS, she said.

She was also waiting for a treatment to halt or eradicate Parkinson’s symptoms.

One part of the job she would not miss was working with technology which often decided not to co-operate.