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Ex-Army Veteran Diagnosed with MND

Benny Denovan (80), from Ayr, shared his life with us, from joining the army, to having a family and his diagnosis of MND in June 2014.

Ex-Army Veteran Diagnosed with MND

Posted : 01/02/2017

Benny, an ex-army veteran, was born in Glasgow in 1936 where he spent most of his childhood. When he was 17 years old he joined the army and served an impressive 41 years in total.

Thinking back on his time in the armed forces he said, “I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I was young, fit and active, and got to travel the world. I enjoyed the companionship, how we relied on each other and how no two days were ever the same.”

Benny met his wife, Edith (77), also from Glasgow, at a party in 1957 when he finished his first three year tour in the army.

“The doorbell rang when I was at the party and no one seemed to move, so I got up to answer it. There she was; I almost fainted,” he recalls. “She was, and still is, the most beautiful woman in any room.

“I proposed not long after we met but had to borrow the money from Edith for her own ring! After a very short engagement we married in November that year.

”The couple, who will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next year, have three children together; Tom (56), Paul (55) and Chris (54).

Being a forces wife, Edith and the kids moved around a lot with Benny, depending on where he was based. They lived in Somerset, Germany, Lisbon and Cyprus, to name a few, before finally settling back in Scotland in 1976. They were initially based in Glasgow, followed by East Kilbride and Benny and Edith have now lived in Ayr since 1998.

He said, “It was fantastic having my family at my side while I worked away. Except for the dangerous locations… they didn’t come there.”

After 22 years of service, Benny had to leave the army. He worked in a bakery for two years until his old boss called him up and offered him a job, based in Scotland, as Transport Control Officer for the army.

“I could have kissed him! I missed the army greatly so was thrilled to be back where I belonged. I ran all of the transport for the army, from servicing, inspections and repairs to examining drivers in army vehicles.

“I worked in this role for 18 years, until I was 65, when unfortunately I reached the age where I had to retire. They practically had to drag me out kicking and screaming after my retirement party 15 years ago.”

Since retiring Benny and Edith have spent a lot of their time visiting their three children, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Tom, Paul and Chris, who live in Falkirk, Weston-super-Mare and outside Newcastle, respectively, have all followed their father’s footsteps into uniform. Tom was in the RAF for 24 years, Paul in the Royal Navy for 35 years and Chris a nurse for 15 years.

In early 2014, Benny noticed something was wrong. He said, “I remember I started to notice things weren’t right not long after my dog, Sally, died at the end of December 2013. I started to lose the power in the right side of my body – it just wasn’t doing what I was telling it to do, and my speech was beginning to slur. The doctors initially thought I’d had a mini stroke, but when I saw a specialist he worked out it was MND. It was probably around 6 months of tests before I received my diagnosis just over 2 years ago.

“I was always a pretty active person that is until Motor Neurone Disease hit me. I used swim, go to the gym, play badminton and squash, but my real passion was golf. I have only just given this up in the last few weeks. I have had to admit defeat.

“But I refuse to let it beat me altogether. Over time it has progressed; my voice is going, I fall over much more than I used too and my memory isn’t what it used to be. I now use a tripod walking frame to help me get around.

“Unfortunately it is also coming to the point where Edith and I will have to move house. Our current house isn’t suitable for a ramp so we are looking at sheltered housing in the local area. It’ll be a big change as this is the longest we’ve stayed in one home, but we’ll make it work together.

“My family has been so supportive throughout this journey – I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.

“My daughter, Chris, now manages a care home and being a nurse knows all about MND, and she doesn’t hesitate to give MND Scotland a call if she thinks I’m playing up! I don’t get away with anything.

“Although my kids don’t live at home they do visit often, and Edith and I have spent a lot of our retirement travelling around visiting family which has been great.

“I wouldn’t change my life for anything; it’s exactly what you make of it. I’m not giving in and I don’t think anyone should. You’ve got to work hard to get on in this life and I haven’t wasted a second of it.”

Benny went on to praise the NHS and the charity MND Scotland, “Our doctors and care team have been great – very helpful, friendly and supportive. We couldn’t fault the care we have received.

“All the staff and volunteers at MND Scotland, that I have come across, have been truly wonderful. We have had help filling out extremely complicated benefits forms from their Welfare & Benefits team and go to their local support group in Irvine. I also borrowed my tripod walking aid from their equipment loan service which has been a big help.

“We have never felt alone during this journey and think MND Scotland is a fantastic organisation. They really bend over backwards to help with any issues.

“I think raising awareness of MND is so important and I am just glad I was able to give back in this way.”

Craig Stockton, CEO of MND Scotland, said “MND Scotland is here to support people in Scotland, like Benny and Edith, through this difficult journey. Our services are vital to improving the quality of life of people affected by MND and alleviating many of the burdens associated with the disease. I am pleased to hear that our team has been able to make this process a little bit easier for them.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Benny for sharing his story with us and with you. Sharing personal experiences of MND is a great way to raise awareness of how this illness affects people’s lives, and shows the strength and courage people have in the face of a devastating diagnosis.”

quote marks

“I wouldn’t change my life for anything; it’s exactly what you make of it. I’m not giving in and I don’t think anyone should.”

Benny Denovan

Benny Denovan

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