Eight months ago Shirley Reise was paralysed from the chest down and was going blind after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
But now the 33-year-old mum-of-one has not only regained her vision, but also the use of her legs and is planning to run the 5K in the Edinburgh marathon on May 26 to raise much-needed funds for the MS Society.
Amazingly this is possible after Shirley was put on a highly effective dose of medication which has completely turned her life around in the space of just a few months.
Not only will she have the support of her Fife Council work colleagues at the Supported Employment Service in Kirkcaldy and her son Joseph (6) on the day, but Shirley will also have some encouragement from her son’s Shetland pony Winnie, who was instrumental in her recovery.
Shirley, who is originally from Kirkcaldy, said: “In May 2017 I was diagnosed with aggressive and explosive Multiple Sclerosis.
“I went from mucking out stables, riding and working full time as well as looking after my son Joseph, to being paralysed from the chest down and eventually blind.
“I spent the summer in hospital going through several MRI’s and lumbar punctures to try and assess what exactly the disease was doing.
“My brain and spinal cord were covered in lesions, which are the result of an overactive immune system attacking the brain and protective myelin sheath on the spinal cord.
“The entire experience was highly traumatic for both myself and my son. At times I was only able to cuddle him or touch his face to know he was there.
“Since then, I have started a highly effective monthly drip at the Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline and this medication (known as Tysabri) has turned my quality of life around – resuming me almost entirely back to normal.
“I can now run, ride and I am hoping to try my hand at para dressage!”
However, Shirley said there was one important factor in her rehabilitation: “During my time of illness my therapy was my equestrian beasts, particularly Winnie, my son’s chestnut Shetland pony,” she said.
“When my legs didn’t work, friends or family would carry me out to the field behind my house and sit me there for hours. Winnie would be happy to learn new tricks or simply graze beside me.
“Winnie knew that I was vulnerable and she was happy to be my company and solace.
“She really helped with my recovery along with the rehabilitation team at Cameron Hospital.”
Shirley, who now lives in Pitlessie, continued: “I decided to run the 5k in the Edinburgh Marathon for the MS Society because getting my vision back and being able to walk again has totally changed my outlook.
“I wanted to do something to not only raise money for the MS Society for MS research but also to raise awareness as many people don’t know what MS is – I know I didn’t know what it was when I was diagnosed.”
Shirley will also be supported by her workmates who are taking part in the event with her.
Angela Hamilton, team manager at the employability service, said: “When Shirley was affected by MS we did our utmost to help her get back to work and we also felt we wanted to support her by taking part in this run as well. We are all looking forward to the event.”
Shirley said that Winnie will also be coming along on the day, adding: “It will be amazing to have her there and already she has helped to raise the profile of the fundraising incredibly.”
Gemma Cowan, fundraising events manager for MS Society Scotland, said: “We are delighted that Shirley is taking part in this amazing challenge to raise funds for people affected by MS which is unpredictable and different for everyone.
“Shirley’s story is extremely inspiring and we were thrilled to also meet her fantastic companion Winnie. “Together they make an incredible team and the bond between Shirley and Winnie is wonderful.
“As well as this, we were touched to hear about the fantastic support Shirley has received from her colleagues and we are so excited to have them in our MS Superstars team this year.”
She added: “Fundraisers like Shirley and her team help support the MS Society to drive research into more – and better treatments for everyone.”