Former RAF instructor in the running for volunteer of the year award
- Credit: Archant
A woman from Huntingdon has said she was ‘humbled’ to hear she’d been selected as one of three finalists in the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ category at the 2016 MS Society Awards.
Suzanne Crighton, age 52, has been chosen from the many thousands of people who volunteer for the charity every year.
Her nomination is in recognition of her work in supporting ‘Mutual Support’ – a group for serving and retired military personnel and their families diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
She’s set to attend the awards ceremony tonight (April 27) in London with her husband, Michael.
Suzanne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991 while serving with the RAF. At the time she was an instructor in logistics for new recruits who had passed their initial officer training.
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She said: “I’d had symptoms in the years before that but didn’t realise what it meant. During the Gulf War I was working around the clock and getting ill but had no time to recover, it resulted in numbness in my legs which went after a while. Shortly after that, I saw a plane crash while at work and three colleagues were killed – the numbness returned.”
In 1991, she was diagnosed after an event at work. Suzanne said: “We heard there had been an incident on the air field and we rushed to the window to see, but fortunately all was ok. It brought back memories of the plane crash I witnessed; I went almost completely blind and deaf immediately.”
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Suzanne was diagnosed quickly; she was on sick leave while her sight and hearing slowly returned and was then posted to a command centre in Brampton in a desk job. In 1995 she was medically discharged from the military.
She said: “I felt devastated. The military was everything I knew, I joined when I was 26 and had planned to stay in the RAF for life. The armed forces is like an extended family – it’s more than just your job, it’s your way of life, and to have that taken away is very difficult.”
Suzanne was one of three founding members of Mutual Support, which supports members of the military family affected by MS. She’s held various roles on the committee, but has been Chair for almost six years.
She said: “We have just over 1,000 members with MS; from across the UK but also some serving abroad. One of our main functions is supporting serving personnel and those who are going through the process of medical discharge.
It’s a difficult time – they’re coping with news of their condition, losing their job and, in some cases, their military provided accommodation. Having been through it ourselves we have the specialist knowledge to help them.”
On hearing she’d made the final of the MS Society Awards, Suzanne said: “I had absolutely no idea I’d been nominated. I felt very humbled and shocked, almost embarrassed. It’s not about me, or winning awards, it’s about supporting people.”
To find out more about the 2016 MS Society Awards visit www.mssociety.org.uk/msawards.