AS A son prepares to climb nine mountains in aid of people with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in memory of his father, the Times learns about specialist care to help people with the brain condition live a more rewarding life.

Lee Wickett is due to take on his challenge in aid of the MND Association which supports families and patients with MND after the charity helped his father Mark before he died last year after years of inspiring youngsters of any ability to play football.

Livewell Southwest, provider of health and social care, is proud of its adult speech and language therapy team, which supports patients with a range of conditions, including strokes, brain injury, Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Speech and language therapists support people who may be struggling with communication or eating, drinking and swallowing.

The team offers a wide range of therapy techniques, equipment and strategies, and work together with patients to achieve their goals.

Faye Arnold, Livewell Southwest head of adult speech and language therapy, works alongside Steve Wharton, who she supports since he was diagnosed with MND.

Faye helps Steve navigate the many challenges of MND, including losing his ability to speak and swallow. Together with the support of colleagues and his family, they have found new ways to help enable Steve to communicate and enjoy tastes and flavours.

Steve, 36, an ex-plumber said: “I was diagnosed with MND in 2020 when I was 33 and after my son was born not long before. It changed my whole world in a few seconds. I had puemonia and needed a tracheostomy and had to spend nine weeks in hospital. MND is very difficult to live with. At times I wanted to give up. But I just snapped out of it. It’s importatnt to have a positive attitude. I’m a massive Man United fan and I can feel the glory days are coming back!”

Faye said: ‘Early on, in Steve’s condition, we discussed voice-banking and how he could record and ‘bank’ his voice for use later. Words and phrases are recorded and used to create a synthesised voice which can be downloaded to a device.”

As Steve’s condition progressed he could not swallow or speak naturally, but he can now use the computer using ‘eye gaze’ as he can’t use his hands, to choose words and phrases online to ‘talk’.

His dad, Mel, said: “Without this he would be snookered. It’s a life-saver for Steve. When his sister-in-law and nephew come over they sit either side of him ands talk together.”

An innovative use of foam, gives Steve the chance to taste without swallowing and choking.

Steve “If you have MND, it might seem like there’s no hope. But we don’t know what the future holds. Be strong, be brave and never give up.” To donate to Lee’s challenge use the following JustGiving link: