My Story

January 2017, Sunday Times

St​ep​ in​​to Christmas – headfirst

Scrape! Bang! The ramp skids forward and collapses flat on the pavement with an almighty crash. My front wheels drop to the pavement. My rear wheels are left behind, one foot up on the step. The angle is too much​…

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December 2016, Sunday Times

No time for the final straw, I’m too busy

“Gin and tonic, please.” The woman pushing the trolley seems surprised. There are many things I cannot do, but drinking gin is not one of them: a marvellous invention, the drinking straw, makes all sorts possible.

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November 2016, Sunday Times

We could all be like Ken Loach’s Daniel Blake

As the food bank volunteer turns away, Katie rips open the nearest can. Her bare hand plunges into a cold tin of beans. Shaking uncontrollably, sauce dripping down her chin, she drops to her knees, crying hysterically. The young single mother has not eaten for days, forgoing what little she has to feed her two young kids. Her desperation, terror and shame are palpable. It is raw, visceral stuff. A grown woman reduced to behaving like a feral animal.

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October 2016, Sunday Times

Our society forces disabled people to be superhuman - Paralympian or not

Bang! Two players collide, head-on, at speed. Wheelchair basketball is fast and ferocious. The players tear around the court, crash and are regularly thrown to the floor. I feel myself nudging my wheelchair closer and closer to the TV screen. Adrenaline coursing through my body, I am taken back to my childhood. For a second I am there on the court, screeching down the line, ready for a pass…

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September 2016​, Sunday Times

Making peace with death

“Was it peaceful?” It is the question well-wishers at a funeral always ask. I can tell you now, with near certainty, my death will indeed be peaceful. I will be in my own home, lying in my own bed, surrounded by those I love. As my breaths become shallower I will drift in and out of consciousness. My breathing will slow and eventually cease. It is the death most of us would hope for. My final scene has been written, bringing comfort each time it plays in my mind.

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July 2016​, Sunday Times

A cure may be out of my reach but I’m already planning my next beach trip

“No treatment, no cure, nothing.” Those words &emdash; from the day I was diagnosed &emdash; still routinely echo around my head. At the moment I take pills I know do nothing. Pills that simply numb the pain. A futile routine I repeat twice daily. I imagine opening my pillbox to take a small capsule of hope &emdash; a drug that has the potential to do something. Maybe, just maybe in my lifetime. It makes my heart flutter.

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June 2016​, Sunday Times

I have MND, but I also have love, focus and hope

My recollection remains as clear today as ever: the pain in my doctor’s eyes as he broke the news. Everything else had been ruled out; it was motor neurone disease (MND). The neurologist revealed delicately that there was no treatment, no cure, nothing he could do. At 29 I got not just a diagnosis, but a death sentence.

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May 2016​, Sunday Times

Racing my nephew — I’ll fight MND for this

“Uncle Gordon, three, two, one, go!” My nephew is counting me down. It’s my turn to race him down the hill. He’s on his bike, I’m in my wheelchair. The sun is shining, the smell of hamburgers lingers in the air from our barbecue, delight fills his wee face. It is a golden moment of unadulterated joy. Pure happiness, despite it all. This is it. This is why it is worth the fight.

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April 2016​, Sunday Times

Life’s still a beach, provided you get hold of the right wheelchair

“Mummy, mummy, why does… that man…” his voice trails off but his eyes remain fixed. The wee boy walks the length of the beach with his neck craned around 180 degrees to stare back at me. His mother smiles politely and hurries him along.

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March 2016​, Sunday Times

The kindness of strangers

An endless conveyor belt of unfamiliar faces visit me at home to help can be wearing — so it is an utter joy to meet a specialist MND nurse whose post was created thanks to our campaign.

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February 2016​, Sunday Times

Air France had its head in the clouds over wheelchair users

I lose my rag. After a week of lengthy calls to Air France, and just days before we are due to set off on our honeymoon to Paris, the airline tells me it can’t take my wheelchair.

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February 2016​, Sunday Times

Interview: Not a day goes by that I don’t think about dying

I meet Gordon Aikman on the day news of David Bowie's death breaks and our interview is conducted to the muted backdrop of the Lazarus video running on the television.

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January 2016​, Sunday Times

Taking our right to information would be a foolish act

With confidence in politicians and the establishment at rock bottom, FoI helps redress the balance between powerful politicians and a powerless public. Democracy works only if it’s transparent. It is an unwise and cowardly government that dares dilute our right to know.

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December 2015​, Sunday Times

I get a medal but it’s my campaign that wins

Today is my quarterly trip to the motor neurone disease clinic. These visits can be depressingly formulaic, simply discussing how much worse I have got, with no hope of a cure. Today is different. After my appointment, I meet Danielle, a young, friendly, enthusiastic MND researcher. Her post exists only because of donations people have made to my campaign. Amazing. For people like me, it is people like Danielle who offer hope.

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December 2015​, The Herald Magazine

Interview: At home with Gordon and Joe

Though stalked by debilitating illness Gordon Aikman and Joe Pike are newlyweds looking forward to Christmas day. Here they speak about the reality of life with Motor Neurone Disease and reveal what they have learned from the experience.

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November 2015​, Sunday Times

Fall pulled back the curtain on extent of my disability

It’s 2.45pm. I am slumped backwards over the arm of my wheelchair. My back is arched. My skull dangles inches from the floor. My limp arms offer no help. My head begins to flood with blood. How am I going to get myself out of this mess? I desperately try to sit up. My stomach muscles refuse to engage. I try to pull myself up. My hands refuse to grip. I am like a puppet that has had its strings cut. I am going nowhere.

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October 2015​, Sunday Times

Carers make my life tolerable, but who will take care of them?

THEY get me out of bed. They wash, dry and dress me. They make my breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner too. They physically feed me. They administer my cocktail of drugs. They help me on and off the loo. They are my hands, arms and legs. They are my independence, my freedom. Paralysed by the terminal, progressive and debilitating motor neurone disease, I am dependent on carers.

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September 2015​, Sunday Times

My dreams run riot – then reality kicks in

I have travelled the world, most recently to Syria and Russia. I have swum with – and been chased by – sharks which mutate Transformer-style into drones. I have run so fast that I have flown with birds.

I tend not to remember my dreams. Morphine, named after Morpheus the Greek god of dreams, not only numbs my pain but gives me vivid night-time experiences of unparalleled intensity in rich technicolour.

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August 2015​, Sunday Times

Festival access is a wheel issue and it's a full house in the loos

The Fringe is full of the weird and wacky. A puppet show about Motor Neurone Disease, you say? Could the condition killing me be entertaining? Intrigued, I sign myself up.

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July 2015​, Sunday Times

Why should even the simple joy of dining out be off the menu?

“Do you want me to feed you?” asks my husband. Of course I don’t want you to. Unfortunately I do need you to. It’s either that, have some sludge poured down a tube directly into my stomach or go hungry. Three delicious options.

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June 2015​, Sunday Times

My body is failing, but my will to aid MND patients is strong as ever

“I am pleased to have met you – but I wish I’d never had to.” Those were the words of one of my carers earlier this week, someone I would genuinely call a friend. A friend I would never have met if I were not dying.

A year has passed since I was diagnosed at 29 years old with motor neurone disease (MND)

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May 2015​, Sunday Times

Whatever happens, nobody will be pressing the mute switch on me

Imagine not being able to say the words “I love you”. No, seriously, stop and consider for a moment permanently losing your voice, never again able to utter a single word. Not able to say yes or no, hello or goodbye. Unable to scream for help.

For me, that prospect is frighteningly real – and the stark, painful reality for thousands of motor neurone disease (MND) patients across the UK.

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April 2015​, Sunday Times

It's time our parliament reflected and represented ALL of us

“When your legs don’t work like they used to before. And I can’t sweep you off of your feet.” Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud must be a rare choice for the first dance at a wedding. Yet for my partner and I, it struck a chord. The lyrics are about two people growing old together, something we know sadly we will never do.

“Why bother with a first dance? Save yourself the indignity,” was the advice. But at the last minute, we did it. Crutch in one hand, I clung to my husband with the other. It was more of an awkward shuffle than dancing, but we did it. It was our first dance.

Disability now affects every aspect of my life. That is what motor neurone disease (MND) does. The progressive nature of the condition means challenges keep on coming, but I take comfort in knowing that today is my best day, my healthiest day. It is that mindset that gets me out of bed in the morning.

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March 2015​, Sunday Times

Waiting in the rain for a taxi ramp is the least of MND's indignities

I have been invited to introduce Ed Miliband at Scottish Labour conference, and I am running dangerously late. The taxi driver twizzles his screwdriver in what seems like a well-rehearsed act.

“Sorry pal,” he mutters, “it’s seized.” He points at the ramp and shrugs his shoulders. Wind howling, rain pouring, I wait, frozen, in my wheelchair. The clock is ticking.

Three taxis later, I arrive. A friend rushes over: “They couldn’t wait any longer; they had to put him on.”

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February 2015​, Sunday Times

I may be dying but I am lucky: I have found love

“WAS he in an accident as a child?” blurts the wheelchair assistant at Heathrow, looking to my partner. People are understandably curious, most are more tactful, but everybody – and I mean everybody – stares. Why is a healthy-looking 29-year-old guy in a wheelchair? I know what it is called, but nobody knows why I have got it.

Last week I set off on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington. As a politics geek, DC has always been on my to-do list. Nobody does politics like the Americans. There was, however, one condition: I take my wheelchair.

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January 2015​, Sunday Times

I've seen my terminal decline in fast forward

"It's called Motor Neurone Disease. Life expectancy is two years."" Watching Eddie Redmayne in the cinematic retelling of Stephen Hawking’s life, I am instantly transported to the moment I received my own death sentence.

That day in June last year will never leave me. I vividly remember the pain in the doctor’s eyes as he told me, at just 29 years old, that my time was almost up. Nothing can prepare you for it.

Motor Neurone Disease is a progressive condition that attacks the nerves, weakening the muscles, which gradually waste away. It affects around 5,000 people in the UK at any given time.

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December 2014, Scotland on Sunday

Dying has taught me how to live

"AMAZING!" "Well done!"" My phone beeps incessantly. It’s 8am. I wake up to a stream of messages. “Get you!” reads one. Groggy, confused, bleary eyed, I stare at my phone: "You’ve hit £5k: you need to up your target!"

In June I wrote in Scotland on Sunday about my shock diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease. MND is a progressive and debilitating condition that attacks the nerves and spinal cord. It is systematically weakening every muscle in my body and this will continue until I am paralysed. But my brain and thinking is likely to remain unaffected.

My aim was to raise what I could to help find a cure. I set up a JustGiving page, but could never have predicted what happened next. In one day: £20,000. My head was in a whirl. Something amazing was happening. And people – strangers – were helping. I was dying at the age of 29, but I was fighting back.

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December 2014, Daily Record

It's ludicrous folk have to hold bake sales so people like me can die with dignity

"YOU been in the wars, son?" asks the security guy as I hobble through the metal detector at Edinburgh Airport, setting off the alarm.

You could say that," I reply under my breath. 'It’s Motor Neurone Disease.' He frowns, confused, holding my gaze, then his face lights up: “Ah. The Ice Bucket Challenge disease."

I smile: "Exactly."

The Ice Bucket Challenge took the world by storm this summer. Even at the most tense and vicious stages of the independence referendum battle, campaigners from both sides paused to drench each other with freezing water.

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June 2014, Scotland on Sunday

Motor Neurone Disease is a death sentence

MOTOR Neurone Disease is a death sentence for Gordon Aikman. But he is determined that it will make his life all the more precious

I am lying on a cold hospital bed, stripped down with electrodes stuck all over my skin. A doctor quietly takes notes as pulses race through my body. After almost an hour I get back into my suit, ready for a packed day of calls and meetings. The doctor steps out to speak to my consultant.

I flick through the morning’s headlines on Twitter and quickly check my email as I wait. In my job as director of research at Better Together, I have got to be up to date. The doctor is gone some time. My appointment has already overrun. I’m irritated.

He returns and says: “Your neurologist would like to see you at 1.15 tomorrow.”

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Awards

  1. December 2016 – Fife Free Press

    Fifers of ​the Year​

  2. December 2016 – The Courier

    Impact 100: The people who inspire us, challenge us and change our world

  3. June 2016 – Scottish Charity Awards

    Charity Champion

  4. April 2016 – Scottish Press Awards

    Columnist of the Year – Nominee

  5. March 2016 – Edinburgh University Students' Association

    Outstanding Achievement Award

  6. January 2016 – Fife Free Press

    Fifers of 2015

  7. November 2015 – The Herald

    Politician of the Year: Public Campaigner of the Year

  8. August 2015 – Kingdom FM

    Local Hero Award

  9. July 2015 – University of Edinburgh

    Honorary degree: Doctor honoris causa

  10. June 2015 – The Queen’s Birthday Honours

    British Empire Medal

  11. June 2015 – Independent on Sunday

    Happy List: 100 inspirational heroes

  12. May 2015 – Daily Record

    Our Fundraising Hero & Overall Our Hero

  13. March 2015 – Prime Minister Rt Hon David Cameron MP

    Points of Light Award

  14. January 2015 – Fife Free Press

    Fifers who made an impact: Number 1

  15. February 2015 – Halifax

    Giving Extra Award: Scotland Winner

  16. December 2014 – Edinburgh Evening News

    Edinburgh's Hot 40

  17. November 2014 – The Herald

    Politician of the Year: Judges’ Award

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