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 I suppose I should start from my school days and explain where I imagined my life going before I developed dystonia. I knew I wanted a career in some sort of creative field since I found working with my hands a lot easier and more enjoyable. I decided to do a furniture design course and afterwards applied for a position as an apprentice cabinet maker. It would take four years to become fully qualified. I really enjoyed this line of work.

I was about a year into my apprentice when I first noticed the power in my right hand worsened, which isn't ideal when you're right handed and starting a career as a cabinet maker. I tried to continue on as long as I could but the power in my hand worsened and unfortunately, because of the machinery, it was not safe for me to continue. I was absolutely gutted and felt like I was back at square one again. I began searching for another path by looking at various courses. I had considered doing a graphic design course after I finished school so I continued on this track. The course involved a drawing module - something that I couldn't do anymore because of the dystonia in my right hand. I was determined not to lose the ability to write and draw so I trained my left hand to pick up the slack. I was embarrassed of how I held my right hand and was worried that people were looking at me, I just became conscious of my dystonia. However I didn't stop living my life.

I continued living my life as a "normal" guy in his 20's, going out the weekends, travelling, going to concerts and just generally having a good time. It was about this time that I started to notice my speech begin to slur and I found it hard to get out the words, I couldn't believe that this was happening and tried to fight it as much as I could. It didn't make a difference - I was getting another onset of dystonia. I didn't know what to think: my head was a complete mess. I found it hard to engage with my friends, lucky for me they were very supportive and never left me out of anything. My mobility also became affected as did my left hand. I found everything very hard to deal with.

I was admitted into Beaumont hospital under the care of Professor Dan Healy where I underwent MRI scans and a number of different tests. I started to attend Physio on a regular basis as well as seeing a speech therapist. Later on in the same year, I spent about 8 weeks in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, where I had Physio, speech therapy and occupational therapy on a daily basis. I really didn't know how to take it all, I was feeling overwhelmed by it all. It took me a few days to settle in. I found it helpful but I was still finding it hard to adjust to the changes I was also angry with my situation - I felt I had lost my independence. I was discharged from the NRH a few days before Christmas, it felt good to be home.

The next 18 months weren't the easiest, I started using a wheelchair. At the time I thought this was a sign of weakness, however I could not have been more wrong. Using the chair gave me the ability to still go out and have a social life without having to worry about my mobility, and there's no queuing when you use a chair - I just roll straight in! I spent the next year or so going to at least three different appointments each week, I started to think what was I going to do with my life seeing my friends moving on with their lives, buying houses, making a career for themselves I kept thinking to myself I'll never have that.

After one of my regular appointments to my consultant he referred me to go back to the NRH. This time I was ready for the help as I was in a much better mind set, I spent about another 8 weeks there undergoing the same therapy as before, I got so much more out of my second spell in the NRH. When I was in the NRH I started searching for courses to do, I knew in my mind that I wanted to design furniture. I decided to apply for a computer aided design course, this two year course gave me the ability to design furniture and get what I have in my head on to paper.

I have also ran a gig night in aid of Beaumont hospital Physio department raising over €3000 from donations made on the night and online, this is something that I want to do again. It gave me a real feel of pride and a feeling of worth. The donations went towards a de-weighing treadmill, which will help people with various types of neurological conditions to work on their gait and overall cardio.

I still get frustrated and annoyed with my disability but I have learned to deal with it by just thinking to myself how lucky I really am. Now I'm 32 I've passed my course with a distinction and I'm starting on a new venture which is designing high-quality dog beds and still continue with my furniture designs. All I really want is to be able to look back on life when I'm an old man and say that I gave it all I had, with no regrets.

 

Richie's Dog Beds

Dogbed

 Richie has designed a beautifully crafted wooden bed for Classy Canines!

His diagnoses of dystonia and his passion for creative furniture design has lead him to create something wonderful for raising funds and awareness for The Dystonia Society.

The beds are handmade from solid Ash wood and the slats are made from Tulip wood. 

Available sizes: SMALL 45 x 60cm

                         MEDIUM 77.5 x 55cm

                         LARGE 92.5 x 62.5cm

                         X-LARGE 70 x 107cm 

Beds are currently available from http://www.petsatno1.co.uk 

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