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A charmed life

Niall Presidential Chair website.jpgWhen MS derailed Niall Connell’s beloved career as a vet, he had no idea the new opportunities that lay further along the track

I am a veterinary surgeon. This makes me proud every single day. My family were from Glasgow’s East End and I went to a large comprehensive school in one of the city’s new towns.

Dad was a firefighter who retrained to become a teacher before sadly dying young. I finished my studies at Glasgow vet school just before my 22nd birthday. I was in mixed practice in Fife for 2 years before joining the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in London. I enjoyed a hectic, rewarding 25 years with PDSA, becoming senior veterinary surgeon at East Glasgow PetAid Hospital. I am married to Colette and we have three children, who grew up to make us proud. Life was good and very busy. 

Life is precious

Colette and the children were in a bad car crash one September Bank Holiday weekend 25 years ago. They miraculously survived and, as a result, we don’t take our lives for granted. September weekend is memorable for us and in 2003, it became memorable again.

I had been experiencing numbness in my left hand for a while and checked in once with our GP. Looking back, I also had weird tingling numb episodes in my legs which I ignored. That September weekend, my legs went very weak indeed and I couldn’t stand. I was admitted to hospital and was subjected to tests, including a CT scan and lumbar punctures. I thought I had a brain tumour. Multiple sclerosis (MS) was diagnosed and I was put onto mega doses of intravenous corticosteroids.

During those long nights, I heard the next patient coughing horribly. I didn’t want to be that poor soul. That patient had throat cancer. I knew I was lucky.

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