Greenock man shares his 9-year progression with MND

Donald Miller was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease on his daughters 16th birthday. He shares his story to help raise the profile of MND.

Greenock man shares his 9-year progression with MND

Posted : 19/06/2017

Donald “Donza” Miller (54), from Greenock, shares his personal story with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), to raise awareness of the condition and highlight the help that the charity, MND Scotland, can provide.

Donza, a former Moulder for Gulf Coast Seal, was diagnosed with MND – a terminal illness which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles – 9 years ago. MND can cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe unaided.

Donza met his wife Michelle (53) on 2nd July 1990 and the couple married on 20th June 2003. They have three children, Paul (31), David (30) and Danielle (25) and four grandchildren, Lucie (4), Jock (1), Alex (10 months) and Josh (8 weeks).

Donza and Michelle’s lives were turned upside down on their daughter’s 16th birthday, when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease on 15th May 2008.

Although the average life expectancy for the condition is 14 months from diagnosis, Donza has continued to persist as he deteriorates. Donza is no longer able to communicate fluently, so his wife Michelle, who is now a full-time carer for him, helps Donza share his story with MND and raise awareness of the condition.

“He was dragging his feet a lot and that’s how we knew that there was a problem. It didn’t take long after that, it was very quick. He was diagnosed with MND six months later and then he went into a wheelchair.

We went through all the different stages. First we were hurt and in denial and some of your friends go away because they don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to say to Donald.

The hardest part was his speech. People don’t know how to deal with Donza. People kept asking me instead of asking him directly; this is when he could still talk. Donald’s right there. He’s only in a wheelchair, speak to him yourself. I think that was the hardest part for him. It’s hard how people kind of flog you off because they can’t understand you anymore. He used to love banter and now only a few people will take the time to speak to Donza. A bit of patience is all that’s needed.”

Michelle is now a full-time carer for Donza, except for four hours a week of respite she receives from the Greenock Carers Centre. Despite the challenges, the Millers are grateful for the support they have received.

“I’m a full-time carer for Donald now. He didn’t want anyone in the house, but as time has gone on, we’ve got more help. I’ve found all of the support fantastic, particularly the MND Scotland grants which are available.

We’ve made use of the MND Scotland Time Out grant, which allowed us to get away on a short break and we also used an Equipment and Adaptations Grant to laminate the floor, which makes it a lot easier to move a wheelchair around in the house. They’ve been really helpful.”

Donza is an avid football fan and played in amateur teams for over 23 years. He is a long-time Celtic fan and thanks to his local supporters group, he has been able to continue attending matches at Celtic Park as the condition progresses.

“We’ve had a lot of support from Celtic, particularly the John O’Doyle supporters bus which is organised by the supporters from the Green Oak bar. Everyone there is brilliant and they all help lift Donza onto the bus, it’s great.”

The club has given Donald a season ticket, and he has a special space for wheelchairs, they are really good with their fans. Because of his condition, it’s not easy to get out and about, but now we can still go to the games for a cut price and we can get Donald out of the house, which is really important. He has always been a massive Celtic fan and he used to go to meetings up there. The bus pass is brilliant, because you can still get out and about if the weather is nice.”

Having MND for nine years has been very challenging for the family, but both Michelle and Donza have kept a positive outlook on life.

“A lot of people don’t live as long as Donald with Motor Neurone Disease. Having it so long now, it’s like we’ve been in a washing machine and come out with a new outlook on life – that’s how he dealt with it. I think Donald’s self-destruct button would’ve kicked in otherwise.

It’s all about your attitude, you’ve just got to get yourself into the mind-set. We stay very positive. Every day is a bonus for him, and every day is a new day for me. We live in hope.”

This MND Awareness Week you can support our Thunderclap campaign which will post a message of support on your social media pages and you can update your social media profile picture with our ‘Twibbon’. You can also donate to MND Scotland below or donate £5 by texting CUREMND to 70660.

Photos: Daily Record