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It takes a community

When Fred Franklin was having balance and mobility issues three years ago, he thought an old back injury might be to blame. It wasn’t; a specialist told him he had progressive multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis that had eluded his doctors for years.

Fred says the news was shocking. He used to run his own construction and renovation business, but he can no longer work.

This spring Fred’s occupational therapist told him he would need a walker, grab bars for the bathroom, a bed rail and other equipment to help him get around. The walker alone would cost several hundred dollars and he wasn’t sure where he would find the money.

Katherine Ridgley, who Fred describes as his “caregiver, partner and best friend,” fought for him.

“I went to every organization I could think of and said, ‘We need help,’” Kathy says. “I’m a go-getter. I wasn’t going to stop until we found help.”

Fred’s family doctor referred them to the MS Society, where they met Client Services Coordinator Laureen Brazeau. They submitted applications to the MS Society’s equipment provision program, but Fred’s equipment needs were greater than the program allowed. Laureen put Fred in touch with the Kinsmen Club of Sackville, which was able to give him a walker, bed rail and grab bars.

“To have the Kinsmen Club come and give me this stuff, it was all really overwhelming,” Fred says.

He will need a power wheelchair soon, another expensive item. The Canadian Red Cross has told him they will provide him with one, with the help of the Easter Seals.

“When people contact us, our first step is determining their needs. Then we look at how to meet those needs, both through our programs and other community agencies,” Laureen says. “There are other resources that we can help people access because we know where to look, we know who to ask. I’m so glad Fred was able to get the equipment he needed, at almost no cost to him.”

Fred has struggled with depression and anger since his diagnosis. But the support of the people around him has helped. The people in his Dartmouth neighbourhood understand that MS has made it difficult for him to do the things he loves. Fred used to be an avid motorcyclist, so a friend from the neighbourhood took him out for a ride on her bike.

“It was one of the best things that’s happened to me in the last three years,” Fred says. “Someone went out of their way to help me do something I enjoy.”

“I also met a really nice guy with MS through the MS Clinic. He told me, ‘When you’re feeling angry, call me. We’ll go for coffee or talk on the phone.’ We talked the other day for over an hour about the changeover to the wheelchair.”

Fred says he wants to give back to the people who have helped him. He’s hoping to do a fundraiser in the spring to raise money for the MS Society.

“I want to tell people with MS that just because you have MS doesn’t mean you’ve got to give up,” Fred says. “Because I’m not giving up.”

“I won’t let you anyway,” Kathy says.

Watch Fred's interview with Global News Halifax.

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