Born and bred in Aberdeen, Ian and his family’s lives were turned upside down when he received the shocking diagnosis of MND this summer.
MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided.
Ian, who is married to Alison (64), is dad to Samara (41), Ian (39) and Shirley (37), and grandfather to Logan (10), Layla (8), Daniel (7), Rory (4) and James (10 months).
Ian and Alison, who live in Bridge of Don, have been married for 43 years and have known each other since primary school. The offshore mechanic was just two years away from retirement, when in June 2018, he first realised something was wrong. Ian has since had to stop working because of his progressing symptoms.
He said: “I had three days left offshore and I noticed I was starting to walk around like I was drunk. I later found out that this is known as ‘drop-foot’ and is a symptom of MND.
“When I got home, I went to see the doctor and on the 3rd July I was told the news. I will always remember that day because it’s my eldest daughter’s birthday.
“It was a huge shock to us all. I had no idea it would be MND but I knew it was going to be bad. I’d heard of MND before and knew about the Ice Bucket Challenge but I never realised what did it actually did to people.
“It’s devastating news to get and it’s turned our world completely upside down. Alison and I were looking forward to retirement in a few years – our lives have totally changed now.
“Since July my walking has become worse and I’m using a crutch to get around. I know I’ll be in a wheelchair for the long haul. I can’t work anymore. I was a mechanic offshore which was a very physical job. My whole working life has been very physically demanding. This makes it more difficult for me to accept I am eventually going to be confined to a wheelchair.
“I’ve found it very hard to deal with mentally and haven’t been sleeping very well. The whole family has found it really tough, I think especially my youngest daughter. But they have all been a fantastic support to me during this awful time, including my children’s partners; Paul, Mark and Debbie.
“My wife has been just amazing. Alison has supported me mentally, keeping me sane, and she is now helping me daily with showering and dressing. These are things we take for granted but MND takes away our ability to do even these small tasks. She too is finding it difficult as her life has also changed so much these past months. I would be lost without her.”
The Robb family received a grant from MND Scotland to help with the costs towards their holiday in October, to give them an opportunity to have a break and some time-out.
Ian continued: “We are so grateful for the support of MND Scotland. The whole crowd of us, kids and grandkids, just went on holiday to Portugal for a break. It was great – 10 days of not thinking about MND and just spending time, and making wonderful memories, with my family.
“Logan, my eldest grandchild, kind of knows what’s happening. When we were on holiday the kids not only saw me using the crutch, but also saw me in my wheelchair, which was a very big step for me, so they have started asking questions. That is tough to deal with too.
“I think I have stayed as positive as I possibly can and have signed up to take part in a clinical drug trial in Glasgow. I’m a big Aberdeen football fan so I’m still going out to matches and keeping busy. Now I want to help by raising awareness of this disease. I think raising more awareness is really important – that’s why I’m sharing my story.”
Craig Stockton, CEO of MND Scotland, said: “I’d like to thank Ian for sharing his story to shine a light on the impact this devastating disease has on families across the country. It is extremely brave to share such a personal part of your life with the world, but important that we continue to highlight the challenges faced by people affected by MND and improve people’s understanding of the disease."