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Unstoppable Ross

Ross, from Clydebank, is a teenager with a wise head on young shoulders.  In a video for Ataxia UK, when asked what he would say to a young person newly diagnosed with ataxia, said “They have to prepare for changes in their life, but they can’t give up, they have to keep on fighting.” 

And fighting is something Ross Docherty, now 15, has become used to over the last few years.  Diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a very rare cancer-like disease of the immune system, at 18 months, and more recently with epilepsy and cerebella ataxia, life has not been easy.

Having suffered increasingly with balance, walking, speech and co-ordination, in December 2010, Ross and his family finally received a diagnosis of cerebella ataxia, something they had never heard of before.  Ross’s Dad, Ronnie, explains “My wife, Linda, turned to the internet for more information, the obvious thing to do, but it’s frightening what you find out on-line.  Luckily, she came across Ataxia UK and make contact with them.”

As well as providing the family with accurate information about ataxia, Ataxia UK were able to put the Docherty’s in touch with a local support group for the West of Scotland, who meet once a month.  They also arrange a couple of trips out each year, and Ross is currently looking forward to a trip to the coast this summer.  “Ross is by far the youngest person who attends the group, but he’s finds it easier to talk to adults than to people his own age.  They are able to talk about how their ataxia affects them, and it helps Ross to understand the difficulties of each stage in the progress of the disease.  The other great thing is that they often have a medical professional who will come along and speak to the group – we would much rather find out information from them than from the internet,” says Ronnie.

Ross is no stranger to the local hospital, The Royal Hospital for Sick Children Yorkhill, he takes 15 tablets a day and says that using a wheelchair and taking regular medication has become part of his life now, “I see six different consultants at six different clinics and three specialist nurses. Using my wheelchair helps me a lot as I have poor balance and I’m not very good at walking.”   

Ross and his family have found the support they have received through Ataxia UK invaluable.  They attended a meeting last year at the Sheffield Ataxia Centre, specifically for young people with ataxia, and are planning to go to the national Ataxia UK conference this October in Manchester.  These gatherings have given Ross the opportunity to meet other young people with ataxia for the first time, and led to him being involved with a great short film aimed at newly diagnosed young people.*

 Sadly, Ross’s experience with other children at High School has not always been a positive one, he prefers not to socialise or to have to explain what is wrong with him.  He attends a local Scout group once a week, where he feels more comfortable.  “I try my hardest to act just like any normal 15 year old,” he says.

Ataxia UK’s current campaign, 2020 Vision, is aiming to find a cure for some or all of the ataxia’s by the year 2020 through supporting research projects.  *To see Ross in the Ataxia UK film, go to www.ataxia.org.uk and click on ‘Children & Young People’

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