Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice A Patient’s Journey

Multiple sclerosis

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 26 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4470
  1. Debbie Purdy, patient1,
  2. Wendy Leedham, General practitioner2
  1. 1Bradford
  2. 2Farrow Medical Centre, Bradford BD3 0HX
  1. Correspondence to: Debbie Purdy debbie.purdy{at}
  • Accepted 15 October 2009

Debbie Purdy describes how she has been helped to embrace life with multiple sclerosis while campaigning to clarify the law on assisted suicide

I first experienced my body refusing my directions in the summer of 1994. Less than half a mile from home my knees just wouldn’t hold me for another step, and I collapsed on the kerb. People going past probably thought I was drunk—a reaction I was to get used to. I went to my GP a couple of weeks later, because I was moving to Singapore and wanted reassurance that the collapse and a few other random experiences of unresponsive body parts were just a reflection of a more sedentary life since coming back to the UK from Hong Kong in 1990. I had spent five or six years abroad, experiencing life.

The GP didn’t even examine me—I made it pretty clear that I was returning to southeast Asia to solve the problems that my lifestyle change had created, and he went along with that.

I went to Singapore in September 1994 but returned to the UK several times in the following months for family funerals. That Christmas I saw a practice locum in Yorkshire who thought that my recent emotional turmoil was to blame for my odd symptoms (tiredness, some blurred vision, and wobbly walking) and referred me to a therapist. My dad’s doctor in Sussex thought I should see a neurologist and referred me to one in Brighton.

Both appointments came through for March 1995, so I went home first to Sussex to see the neurologist. He sent me straight for an MRI scan the following week. The technician was really thorough, explaining exactly what I should expect while I was in the MRI tube for about 45 minutes. The conveyer slid me in and, …

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