The ‘pulled muscle’ that turned out to be Motor Neurone Disease

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When popular Methodist minister Neil Drayton, 55, had problems with his left leg while out running, he put it down to a pulled muscle.

And when he suffered a dropped foot shortly afterwards, he thought he’d simply sprained his ankle.

It was only when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in May last year that he realised, in hindsight, how the weakness was caused.

“It was a bolt out of the blue,” the one-time Met officer says. “I’d had lots of different tests and I think my consultant may have had an inkling, but I was totally unaware until he told me.

“He was very helpful, sensitive and supportive. But I don’t think I really took it in. My initial reaction was to ask if it was hereditary because I was concerned I’d pass it on to my children. But he was very reassuring about that.

“It was a Friday afternoon and my wife Karen and I were going away to a youth conference. We spent the whole weekend in shock.”

Neil, of Friars Walk, admits he knew very little about MND: “I still don’t – and I’ve made very little effort to find out. I can’t change anything and take each day as it comes, rather than going into what might or might not happen.

“I rant at God occasionally, not just about MND but the things I see around me, like the way people treat each other.”

But he adds: “My faith has been a real rock, it’s given me real strength and the power of prayer has made a real difference.”

He says his congregation – which covers four churches including The Square in Dunstable – has been “incredibly supportive.”

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-one admits he’s going to have to stop working soon. “I don’t have any pain but I suffer from fatigue and my strength is slowly slipping away,” he explains.

“But that doesn’t worry me. I don’t feel depressed or downhearted, just that a different opportunity will open up. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to serve God but feel confident that something will develop.”

Neil left school at 16 to join the police but felt he was being called to work with young people. He candidated to be a Methodist minister and went to Queen’s College, Birmingham.

He subsequently applied to serve the church overseas and spent three years in the Caribbean, before coming back to a Yorkshire parish.

He and Karen, a midwife at Luton&Dunstable Hospital, moved to Dunstable three years ago.

He’s facing the future calm in the knowledge that “God has me in his hands. I’ve reached this stage and He’s decided I’ve done enough.

“I have no fear of death and believe the after life offers hope, love and joy.”