|“My Mums’ condition has varied at times. We as a family have required support in a number of areas. The main support my mum has received from MS has been in home carers who help complete tasks around the house including cooking, cleaning and general support."|
To reach the elite level of competing in the AFL or AFLW, it takes serious dedication.
Every weekend from March to September we tune in at prime time to watch these amazing men and women as they perform at the highest level.
One thing we don’t often see is the support network that is essential to these athlete’s success.A network of psychologists, physios, trainers, medical staff, cooks, cleaners, ground staff, assistants, and - most importantly - family and friends, keeps the players going, both on and off the field.
For the 26,000 Australians living with multiple sclerosis, the situation is no different. They know that without a solid support network, life would be vastly different. One key difference is that for people living with multiple sclerosis, there is no offseason.
Zach Merritt, a midfielder at Essendon Football Club, knows this all too well. Zach, like many others around Australia, plays a vital role to someone living with MS. For Zach, that person is his Mum, Cathy.
“My Mums’ condition has varied at times. We as a family have required support in a number of areas. The main support my mum has received from MS has been in home carers who help complete tasks around the house including cooking, cleaning and general support. Also, carers provided transport for my Mum to health appointments and grocery shopping, as dad worked full time,” says Zach.
Much like the support network of an AFL footballer, the support network provided by MS allows people with multiple sclerosis to focus on staying fit, both mentally and phiscally.
For Zach, the support of his club is essential to keeping his mind sharp and body fit, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Fortunately I was able to be given a clear program for my time away from the club to follow and keep fit, I used a local oval in Port Melbourne for my running and football skills training and was able to get my hands on some specific gym equipment to put in my house whilst in isolation. I also used the time to practice and improve my cooking skills and experimented more than I normally would have,” says Zach.
To keep my mind focused, every morning I typically read a page from a book of meditations give myself some purpose for the day, and do my best. I either write down or talk to myself about three things I am grateful for and appreciate before I go to bed each night. Lastly, I try to do things I am truly passionate about daily.”
Australian living with MS are often some of the most isolated, especially during these times of physical distancing.
Zach understands the importance of maintaining a strong connection with loved ones and social networks, even when you are apart.
“I keep in contact with my Mum and Dad two or three times a week as we live quite a distance apart and have been unable to see each other since physical distancing started, due to the increased risk associated to Mum’. We normally chat over the phone using video chat, so Mum and Dad can see my dog Maya. Typically, I keep in contact with family and friends via phone calls during my walks or will text to keep in contact weekly,” says Zach.
It’s essential for people living with multiple sclerosis to have a network of people around them that they can trust, and who will be there when they need it most.
In the absence of support networks, or for extra help when needed, people living with multiple sclerosis, their friends, family, and carers are able to make a connection through our MS Peer Support program, either in a one-on-one or group setting, typically over the phone or online.
If you need support, please contact MS Connect to enquire about the MS Peer Support program on Freecall 1800 042 138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By taking part in the MS Walk Run + Roll, we’re able to ensure that Zach’s mum, Cathy, and other Aussies living with multiple sclerosis feel connected along every stage of their journey, from diagnosis to living well.
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