Mutual Support Committee
Simeon Grundy – Chairman
Hi, I am Simeon Grundy (pronounced Simon but spelt oddly – don’t ask) and was previously the Treasurer for Mutual Support. I don’t have MS myself, but got to know the Group through a colleague of mine who had MS back in 2000. I was asked to conduct a fundraising event for Mutual Support, which turned out to be challenging members of the local Supermarket to a doughnut eating competition – we lost, (and yest the fact we lost still irks me to this day) but still managed to raise over £500 on the day. From there on I took over RAF Fundraising and some years later took over the role of Fundraising Manager. After eight years I felt it was time to stand down as Fundraising Manager, having exhausted ideas for future money spinners. After nearly two years absence from the Committee I felt I had the time to offer to assist and took over as your thrifty Treasurer in April 2010.
I am currently living and working back where my heart is – in North Yorkshire having had my last ever house move (hopefully) – no I am not that old, just preparing for the day I can say, enough is enough. Mutual Support is a superb organisation full of amazing characters, whom I am proud to support in any way possible. I have been blessed to have met so many fantastic members of Mutual Support and hope that I can continue to offer something to the members and committee.
Having worked with the Committee for nearly 17 years, I was preparing to stand down and take what I considered to be a well deserved rest. However when Suzanne stood down as Chairman in May 2017 I was delighted to take on the mantle of Chairman.
Suzanne Crighton – Deputy Chairman
I was diagnosed with MS whilst serving at RAFC Cranwell as an instructor in 1991. My diagnosis was as much a shock to me as it is to anyone, but meeting Kim Bartlett only days after my diagnosis was of enormous help to me; I had never met anyone else with MS. Kim and Sue Smith had formed a self-help group for Service personnel with MS and I tried to turn my diagnosis into something positive by joining forces with them to help get Mutual Support off the ground.
I have filled numerous roles over the years on the Committee including Welfare Officer, Events Organiser, Benefits Advisor, Deputy Chairman and Chairman from 2010 to 2017. I am passionate about Mutual Support and very proud to be part of a group that makes such a difference to so many people’s lives. I hope that by sharing the knowledge and experience I have gained about MS and the military over the last 20 years, I can help make the lives of our members that bit easier, so that they can live as fulfilling and positive a life as possible, despite this pernicious disease.
I am now delighted to support Simeon as his deputy, in any way I can.
Julie Russell – Secretary
I’ve been married to Jack for 28 years and we have two clever and amazing daughters, I was diagnosed with MS back in 1998, whilst living in Scotland, four months after having my second child. This was five years after my first symptoms. My consultant at the time said, quite dismissively, “If I need to give it a name, I’ll say you have mild MS.” Is there such a thing? He then turned to my husband Jack and said, “So you’re in the Navy, what do you do?” Not the best introduction to the NHS handling of the newly diagnosed! So after being sledgehammered, we left for a lovely anniversary meal in the hospital canteen. He still knows how to spoil a girl.
To be honest, I felt relieved at finally getting a diagnosis. In the early days I had been told that I had a shadow on my brain. Of course, me being me, I planned what I thought were my remaining days, organising who would look after my children and who on Earth would be brave enough to marry Jack in the event of my death from… a brain tumour! Luckily, I was wrong and I ended up in this smashing club. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t scared and didn’t wake up in the night thinking, ‘I’ve got MS’, initially it was all consuming, but my symptoms were few and far between and eventually I locked my diagnosis away in a cupboard behind me and lived in denial for many years. Then we moved to sunny Formby and my whole settled snow globe was turned upside down after my GP questioned my MS status. So there I was again, the girl with the label and subsequent tests and scans confirmed that yes, indeed I was a fully paid up member to the MS club. I began volunteering for my local MS Society-Sefton Branch and became their Lead Support, a challenging but rewarding role that I performed for 3+ years. After a brief break from volunteering, I agreed to give something back to this amazing group, and I became Secretary. I had found Mutual Support some years earlier, a group on an MS forum. I was confused and looking for answers and was very cynical as how an Armed Forces group could be any different from the input I’d had so far from MS professionals! How wrong can anyone be? Mutual Support is my MS family and has helped both Jack and myself to come to terms with living with MS and we’ve made great friends along the way.
Al Healy – Treasurer
Well, time to tell you a wee bit about myself I suppose, having just taken on the role of Treasurer for Mutual Support. I am 40 years old and have been serving as a Regular with the Royal Air Force for over 16 years. Prior to signing on the dotted line I had a few jobs in Liverpool, the last one being a Civil Servant with the MoD, a place that payed all the bills for the Forces – so I thought it was fitting to jump the fence and see how life was on the other side. I am currently a Corporal and working at RAF Fylingdales, North Yorkshire. My trade background is Aerospace Systems Operator, effectively working as a RADAR Operator and part of the bigger Air Defence world. I have had numerous tours in my 16 years, Scotland, England, Falklands, England, Falklands, England, Falklands…( I’m sure you get the pattern). My current job is rather unique in the fact it is the world of ballistic missiles and space object tracking – slightly out of the norm from your air defence radars. Family life, we are currently living in Borehamwood but looking at moving North in the next few months, closer to my more natural Liverpool surroundings. The “we” bit is my small family of Wendy, a nurse with the NHS, and our 3 sons, Nathan (9), Connor (6) and Zak (4 – going on 40). They are more than enough to keep our days occupied in one way or another. Outside of work I enjoy keeping fit by way of distance running, as the picture may suggest. I have completed several marathons over the past few years and numerous half marathons and other runs. I find it keeps me on the straight and narrow. Being truly Scouse I was also raised on a diet of bread, water and football. Everton, however, can prove rather frustrating to follow but I persevere and also carry the guilt of inflicting this on my children, ha. I attempt to play acoustic guitar (for self-pleasure) in my spare time and my musical tastes are very, very varied, from the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater, U2, Oasis and even the guilty pleasure of my wife’s Take That and MJ collections, but I keep that to myself!!! In terms of MS, I have no direct link to this terrible illness. I ran a marathon in May 2016 and decided to raise money for Mutual Support, a Charity I was aware of from all the hard work my Warrant Officer (Si Grundy) was heavily involved with. It was on the back of this that I realised what a fantastically run charity this is and was only glad to offer my services when the Deputy Treasurer, becoming Treasurer, role was to become vacant. I am hard working and feel that if I can do something that can make a positive difference to the lives of others, no matter how small, then I will do it and give it my best shot. I look forward to putting faces to names down the line and helping the group run smoothly with my/our involvement.
Nick Maxey – Fundraiser
I joined the RAF in 1992 as a pilot and throughout my career have flown Sea Kings in the Search and Rescue role and the TriStar in the Air to Air and Air Transport Roles as well as tours in Abbeywood and the Ministry of Defence. I have completed operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and I am now on the staff of the Advanced Command and Staff Course at the Defence Academy, Shrivenham.
I am married and have a 17-year old daughter. My interests include hockey and all triathlon related sports. In the last 12 months I have completed 2 marathons, a half ironman triathlon and an ultra-marathon raising funds for Mutual Support.
I do not have MS but a member of my family does and it is because of them that we became aware of the Society. My family member is amazing but I need to understand how I can help more. Having watched from the sidelines for a couple of years I now feel that I can become more involved in the societies activities. Firstly, to increase my understanding about MS but also to support other servicemen and women, whom this disease has affected.
Liz Abrahams – Newsletter Editor
Neil and I were introduced to Mutual Support in 2014, after a former Naval colleague advised Neil of the charity. Prior to this, we regularly attended a local MS Society group. The group was great from a socialising aspect, but we felt that it didn’t really satisfy our thirst for more knowledge on MS.
Terl Bryant – Pensions Volunteer
I spent 26 years in RAF as a Wireless Engineer then went into Civvy Street as an Electro Mechanical Designer; I am now 65. MS really hit me at 55 and I took an ‘engineered’ redundancy and started my own Design Company. I am heavily into Scouting, Politics and school-governing duties. My MS is a blessing as I only need about 3 hours sleep in 24 so I can get all the paperwork and reading done whilst others sleep. I hate TV. My Mutual Support role is trying to get folk War Pensions / AFCS payments and allowances. I am a ‘nitpicker’ but my spelling is shocking. I don’t like to give up so I do tend to chase folk I am working with to make sure that they have got the best they can out of the system. I am married (35 years this year) to Pauline and have a daughter and grandson.
Currently Vacant – Publicity Member
Currently Vacant – Speakers’ Organiser
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Hilary Winstanley – Support Team Manager
I became involved with Mutual Support after my husband Bob was diagnosed with MS in 2007. He had served in the RAF for 22 years, and I was proud to be a Service wife, with all the demands it can make on family life and my career. Having planned to go into medicine, failing a crucial A level I ended up in the civil service until we were posted to Germany. I worked for NAAFI until our twins were born in 1986.
Whilst Bob was still in the RAF we bought our first house in a Lincolnshire village and I threw myself into village life and amongst other things joined the Parish Council. If you think Service life is frustrating, try being a parish council chairman for 3 years!
I am passionate about Mutual Support’s role in the Service community and after a brief spell as a Service contact, took over from Heather Smith as Support Team Manager. The Team has undergone training and we have undergone some strategic changes in the membership introduction procedures. All new members are automatically helped with benefit and pension matters and through the recent review many of our longer standing members are receiving the same advice.
The team constantly strive to offer the best advice possible and are an indispensable part of Mutual Support. If you would like to join us or know more about the care we give, please contact me.
Mark Paterson – Pensions Volunteer
I was an Aircraft Engineer in the Royal Navy for 17 years and have served on numerous Ships and Air Stations during my career.
I was diagnosed with MS in 2009 whilst serving at RNAS Yeovilton. At that time, I found it very difficult to come to terms with both the diagnosis and the career implications.
I found out about Mutual Support by accident whilst searching the internet for some information. Since then I have been in regular contact with Suzanne and Terl who have helped me enormously through some very difficult times.
I left the RN in 2010 and have personal experience of the medical discharge process and the bureaucracy surrounding pensions and benefits. I joined the support team in 2011 and my role within the organisation is to assist our members with pension related matters. I hope to help others secure the pension benefits that they are entitled to.
Peter McKernan – Serving STC2
I completed service with the Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm, in June 2009 after joining up in July 1974. I was suspected of having Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1998 but not given a formal diagnosis until January 2004. On attendance at a Medical Board of Survey, they elected to keep me in the service. At the time, I had fewer than 20 months to complete and with other personal issues, it would have been too much stress to handle (and possibly trigger a series of relapses) if had appealed so I did not. During this time I was asked to extend for a further period of 12 months and for a further period of 12 months the following year. Hence the extended time served. I have been married to Sharon for over 30 years and have two grown up sons and three grandchildren, two boys and one girl. I have been a member of Mutual Support since January 2009.
Andy Williams – New Member Team
Nikki Young – Benefits Volunteer
I first experienced symptoms of MS fatigue in 1987 whilst serving in the WRAC in Berlin. Knowing nothing about MS I was guided to a very different diagnosis that shaped my relationship with the monster for the next 25 years. In 1991 I was medically discharged as a Reservist following a formal diagnosis of RRMS. So I got on with life, married David, completed a degree in Politics and Masters in Social Work. was elected as a Norwich City Councillor and opted to undertake a Master’s Degree in Social Work alongside a Post Grad Diploma in Social Work. Since DX I avoided anyone with MS and ignored how it was taking over my being until I was hit with confirmation of SPMS, an explosive bowel, running tap bladder and decking mobility. East Anglia advertised for a Regional Chair giving me a chance to offer my professional experience to the MS Community. Then I met PwMS and I learned so much from the community.
Penny Tyas – Benefits Volunteer
I was in the Royal Naval Reserve at HMS Sussex in Hove for 5 years until it was disbanded in the eighties. It was a fantastic time, and it still amazes me that something fun that I took on over 30 years ago can continue to have such a profound impact on my life since developing MS.
I met my second husband through the RNR, and we set about buying a boat and planning to sail around the world. We left UK in 1987 and spent far too much on enjoying life and ended up in the Caribbean with no funds left. I have left England 3 times to sail around the world, but keep getting stuck in the Caribbean. I have promised myself that next time I plan on a circumnavigation I will start from there! After six years in the British Virgin Islands, and fifteen in Antigua, I came to the UK in 2009 on a holiday, found I loved England, and decided to stay.
I was diagnosed with MS in 2013, 4 years after my first episode. I was completely shocked and in denial and spent a rough few months housebound, losing my job, going bankrupt, and getting evicted. However, the military family was there for me, and caught me when I fell. Mutual Support is brilliant; it put the emphasis on military, something that makes us all a little odd anyway, and the fact that we have MS becomes a secondary concern in a strange way.
As I have had personal experience with the nightmares of claiming DWP benefits, I offered to be a Benefits Volunteer for Mutual Support. I have been trained to assist on PIP, and I hope to help others whenever they need it.