A Magherafelt man who was struck down by a rare brain disorder less than a year ago is trying to raise awareness of the condition.
Dougie Wylie, 38, was hospitalised for two months after being diagnosed with neuro sarcoidosis for which there is no cure.
Mr Wylie, a research scientist at Imperial College in London, fell ill last summer but did not think he had anything serious.
“I was dizzy, had nausea and developed problems with my balance,” he explained.
When the symptoms didn’t improve he went to his GP and was referred on to the neurology department at St George’s Hospital in London.
He was eventually diagnosed with the disorder which affects 250 people per million in the UK.
In October he was informed that his condition was even more rare – isolated neuro sarcoidosis.
At the start of this year he was told that in five to 10 years he would probably only be able to walk with two walking sticks as a best case scenario.
The disorder has hit him hard and although he tries every day to use a rollator frame to help him walk, he needs a wheelchair most of the time to help him with his serious mobility issues.
“Mentally I’m able to do computer work but physically get tired fast,” he said.
Dougie received treatment at The Royal Free Hospital which is a major centre for the investigation of the disorder. Together with the Royal Brompton Hospital they undertake research into how the disease develops and can be treated.
Mr Wylie, who says he is not aware of anyone else in Northern Ireland who has his condition, would love to be a guinea pig for research.
Being a scientist, the former Rainey School pupil is planning to write a report on the cause, cure and treatment of the disorder which is believed to have its origins in a bacterial infection.
“I have a lot of hope for the future,” he said, believing the brain cell technology will improve with time.
Dougie, who is married to Gail, plans to head back over to London next week, but looks forward to his trips back home to Magherafelt.
A staunch Northern Ireland football supporter, he recently made the trip with his dad Keith to Paris to see the side in action at the Euros.
Although the journey left him drained, he said it was an experience he will remember.