“I am more than what you see”

I heard this phrase the other day and it has been playing in my head ever since. I think the reason why it has resonated with me so much is that it encapsulates the situation of so many of the guests we see at Leuchie House.

When you are diagnosed with a long-term physical condition, it becomes very easy to be defined by that condition. Many of our guests have a real sense of losing their identity to their illness, particularly as it progresses and the symptoms become more pronounced.

However, if you look around a busy dining room at Leuchie, past the wheelchairs and walking frames, you’ll find a group of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. People who had busy and active lives - bringing up families, pursuing careers, contributing to society.  

We have just welcomed the guests staying at Leuchie for a Christmas and New Year break.  Among the group are a former TV engineer, a teacher, a refuse collector, a surveyor, an accountant, a nurse and a bus driver. 

Staying with us earlier this month on his first visit to Leuchie House was Bob, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2004. As we got to know him over the first few days of his holiday, we discovered that he had been a professional magician for over 25 years.  His career had taken him across the UK and Europe, performing close-up magic at events ranging from children’s shows to large corporate functions for organisations like VW.

As the symptoms of Parkinson’s set in, he lost the dexterity needed to continue his career as a magician, yet he refused to be defeated by his diagnosis: “It’s what the illness does to us as individuals and our responses to these symptoms that count, not the name we give to it.” He was determined to help others recover from similar setbacks and over the last 10 years has been involved in a variety of ventures including delivering a lifestyle management programme for people with long-term health conditions.

Bob’s story is only one of hundreds I could share from all the people we meet at Leuchie. His own response to his diagnosis is a great reminder to us all that there is almost always more to people than what we see.

Mairi O'Keefe, Chief Executive
(Published in East Lothian Courier, 24 December 2015)