Enthusiastic volunteer Hervey Bay and Maryborough Multiple Sclerosis Support Group organiser, Bev Cornwell.
Enthusiastic volunteer Hervey Bay and Maryborough Multiple Sclerosis Support Group organiser, Bev Cornwell.

MS volunteer's enthusiasm is heartwarming

BEV Cornwell won't let her disability define her. Instead, she uses it to keep herself energised and engaged in helping those around her also suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS).

Bev was diagnosed with MS in 1994. She was just 48. "I was still able to work and kept working until 1999 in the Aged Care industry," she said. "There was a stage there when I retired from Aged Care that I wasn't sure if I was holding their resident up or they were holding me up."

With close to 40 people in Queensland's Hervey Bay and Maryborough region suffering with the disease, her monthly Hervey Bay and Maryborough Multiple Sclerosis Support Group, which she organises, is a vital way to connect and support these people.

Since the group first met in the early 90s it has followed a relaxed structure. No subject is off the table. "Each time, we go around the table and ask how everyone is going," Bev said. "We discuss bowels and bladder, and all those things that affect all of us."

"It's great therapy. We just get together for a coffee and a chat." From time to time they have people drop in to add to the conversation. "We had a chap who is involved in hearing. He wanted to come along because he was diagnosed with MS. He wanted to tell his story and say that for a very small amount of people MS affects their hearing."

"I am getting more people wanting to come along, like the man with the hearing. The people who massage my feet have asked to come along and address our meeting," she added. She also has a strong connection with the MS Queensland regional coordinator.

And, if someone can't get the meeting, Bev is on the job of finding a solution. "There was a little lady over at Burrum Heads who contacted me," Bev said. "She had MS and didn't have a way of getting to our meeting." A phone call by Bev to the local Progress Association ended with a volunteer driver to provide transport each month to the Hervey Bay RSL where the job meet.

Bev is also keenly tapping into the internet and joining in webinars to seek knowledge from people across the state about MS issues.

Even though the 72-year-old is now in a wheelchair full-time her fantastic enthusiasm to engage with the community, keeps growing as her range of physical movement diminishes.

"I still feel I can do things," Bev said. "I am in a wheelchair and my legs don't work, and my husband might differ but my brain still works," she added with a chuckle.