Marjorie Collins MS centre in Chadwell Heath: a place of fun and games

Activities atThe Marjorie Collins Centre, Grove Road,
Geoff Vallance, age75 playing Boccia.

Activities atThe Marjorie Collins Centre, Grove Road, Geoff Vallance, age75 playing Boccia. - Credit: Archant

At the Marjorie Collins Multiple Sclerosis centre, patients, friends and family gather to find comfort in battling the long-term condition. In between games, therapies and tea, reporter Chloe Farand encountered the people behind this active and friendly community.

Fatigue and pain are sometimes difficult to spot in people, but this does not mean they don’t exist.

At the Marjorie Collins Multiple Sclerosis (MS) day centre, in Grove Lane, Chadwell Heath, this is something most people are familiar with.

The centre welcomes anyone suffering from MS, a disease which disrupts part of the nervous system and prevents it communicating properly with the rest of the body, along with their families and carers.

Tom Mercer, 48, from Chigwell, was diagnosed with MS six years ago, and finds it difficult to explain the condition to people who don’t understand its symptoms.

“A lot of people understand the word ‘fatigue’ but they don’t understand the meaning,” he said.

“This fatigue is different than anything I have known before.”

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The symptoms of the disease are numerous and complex, ranging from recurrent fatigue, loss of balance and mobility and vision problems to mental problems, and each patient is different.

The centre attracts people from across the borough and beyond, providing a social place to meet friends and take part in exercise such as yoga, and stretching classes or therapy sessions.

On a busy day, 35 people use the centre’s facilities, and about 50 people come through the door every week.

While some prefer to play cards and read the papers in the hall, a group of about 15 are playing boccia, a paralympic sport where two teams try to throw their coloured balls as close as possible to the white jack.

Geoff Vallance, 75, from Barkingside, plays on the red team. His condition has progressed to the point he can no longer walk and uses a wheelchair, but he remembers coming to the centre when it opened 26 years ago and he was still working.

“We want more young people and middle aged people to come,” he said. “It would be nice to see young faces here.”

Del Lynch, 68, from Wanstead, is also part of the small group who have seen the centre’s early days.

He said: “It is changing. It used to be very busy, but when people are diagnosed with MS they don’t want to see what it is going to be like when they progress in the condition. Young people come in and are scared of seeing quite a few of us in wheelchairs.”

Joanne Pearton, 48, is concerned not enough people know the centre exists and she fears it could lead to its closure.

She says the centre is vital to the community and hopes it will continue to help many people with MS after her.