Will Martin is 27 and was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia whilst at secondary school, during his GCSE examinations. Will talks to us about how ataxia has isolated him from his peers, made him deflect from education and shares what has helped him since.

Diagnosis

At just the age of 16, Will was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia. His symptoms have affected him for far longer, however; although he went back and forth to his GP, his GP insisted that his unstable gait and other ataxic symptoms were down to growth spurts. Eventually he was referred to a neurologist, who finally made the diagnosis.

School

Will did not have an easy time at secondary school. Because of his unstable gait, he was called names: “mostly I laughed it off, but sometimes it frustrated me.” After a while, he moved to a disability school in Shrewsbury, which was a grade II listed building. This caused great difficulty for Will to get from class to class, as the building was old and hard to move around in. He struggled with the thought of falling over in front of people, which “meant I often skipped college.”

Managing ataxia today

Nevertheless, now armed with a diagnosis, Will was able to seek specialist treatment at one of Ataxia UK’s Specialist Ataxia Centres: “I owe a lot to the Sheffield Ataxia Clinic and the work being done by Professor Hadjivassiliou, for helping with medication and pointing me in the right direction.”

Will is also funded by a charity that allows him to go to a local hydrotherapy physio-pool. He advocates playing Play Station for dexterity and keeps busy by doing little bits of DIY around the house and garden. In terms of advice for others, Will says that “it’s vital not to set unachievable goals because this can really get you down.” Will is currently fundraising for a new wheelchair and also a ‘tri-ride’ which is a motorised wheelchair attachment, which will enable him to get out more and meet more people.