A KENDAL couple who have been married for more than 40 years but who had their lives irreversibly changed three years ago following a shock diagnosis are backing the Give Them A Break campaign.

Chris Davis had been a ‘perfectly’ healthy man who had ‘never had a day off in his life’ prior to being told that he had sporadic inclusion body myositis (sIBM).

“We were told there’s no cure, no treatment and you’ve got to go home and adapt your house and you need a wheelchair,” said Irene, Chris’ wife. “I just sat on the doctor’s stairs and cried because I knew this was life changing and nothing was ever going to be the same again.”

The illness, which is a progressive muscle disorder, started to show after Chris, now 72, did not recover from a virus that both he and his wife had. Irene, 63, noticed that Chris, a builder by trade who was still working prior to finding out about the condition, had become emaciated in his arms and he was eventually diagnosed after a biopsy.

“Chris is doubly unlucky because this condition normally destroys two to five per cent of muscle per annum,” she said. “It destroyed Chris in 12 months, from standing to being in a wheelchair. It’s very aggressively progressive, so you’re continually having to change things and adapt.”

Although she was still working as a receptionist for FMB, Irene had to quickly work to make their home accessible for Chris and to help him perform every day tasks.

She was told about South Lakeland Carers by a work colleague and she said the help and support that they offered her had been a ‘godsend’.

“I’m quite independent,” she said. “I don’t like to bother people but I phoned and that was the first step I made towards South Lakes Carers and I never looked back.

“They recognised that I was emotional and I was upset and I was struggling with things because it was heartbreaking watching Chris struggle. We’ve been married for 47 years and it was very heartbreaking and destroying watching a loved one go through this.”

The charity offered Irene relaxation therapies, assistance with sourcing equipment, financial advice and emotional support.

“Until you’ve got somebody in this scenario, you cannot imagine how difficult things can be,” Irene said.

And Chris said that his life would be ‘non-existent’ without the care and support that Irene provides him with. “I rely on Irene for I would say 95 per cent of things,” he said.

Although their lives have been turned upside down, having had to change their home, give up their motorbikes following and face regular new challenges, the couple remain remarkably upbeat about their situation.

“We tell ourselves we’re a lot luckier than some,” said Irene. “It’s not as bad as dementia or alzheimers. I can’t think of anything worse than seeing to someone’s every daily need and them looking at you and saying ‘who are you?’

“I think you’ve got to look at the positives and what you can do rather than what you could do or would like to.

“And if Chris gets a bit frustrated with things, which he can do, I like to wind him up and say ‘you’re lucky because you’ve got me’.”

Irene said she was fully behind the campaign. “It just helps you step away and gather yourself together and feel like more you,” she explained. “Your life revolves around caring, feeding, washing, doctors appointments so your life is not your own anymore. You do need to have the time to go and enjoy yourself. It’s vital. It is so important to have you time to keep you strong and to keep you happy.”

To donate to the Give Them a Break campaign, complete the coupon and return it to Mike Addison, Give Them a Break, The Westmorland Gazette, 1 Wainwright's Yard, Kendal, LA9 4DP.

Please make cheques payable to 'Give Them a Break'.

Or, you can use http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/GiveThemABreak