AN INSPIRATIONAL Galashiels woman who has helped hundreds of people with a long-term health condition is in the running for a national award.

Kirsty Bennett, 34, was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2009 when she was just 21.

Three years later she was volunteering for MS Society Scotland, helping other people with the neurological condition feel more in control of their health and wellbeing.

Now, in recognition of her volunteering work, Kirsty has been nominated for the Self Management Champion of the Year Award at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland’s (the ALLIANCE’s) Self Management Awards 2022.

Kirsty, who works part-time as a payment support assistant and recently completed a psychology degree with the Open University, said: “I was really humbled to be nominated for the award, I thought it was really nice of the MS Society, but I never, ever thought I would be shortlisted. So to get the message to say I’d been shortlisted, I was very surprised.

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“Self management is how you manage your own condition by the small things that you do during the day. For example, sitting down to do the dishes is self management because it helps you to manage your symptoms if you can’t stand for too long.

“Self management helps you to continue to do things for as long as possible and to do them independently. It just helps you get through every day.

“It’s definitely not about doing everything on your own. There are some times when you can do things independently and manage things on your own just fine. But there are also the occasional times that you do need a bit of professional support or you need a bit of help from your friends and family. Asking for help is a big part of self management.”

More than 15,000 people in Scotland live with MS, according to the charity. It damages nerves in the body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think.

Kirsty has helped design and facilitate the MS Society’s ‘Living Well’ sessions, and has spoken at themed webinars - one on fatigue and another on returning to work after the COVID-19 pandemic – each with well over 100 participants.

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She also volunteers at MS Society Scotland’s The Borders Group where she was instrumental in taking the group online during lockdown.

Kirsty also hit headlines during lockdown when she teamed up with friend and co-owner of Selkirk Distillers, Jane Gentleman, to create ‘the 1953’ – a unique gin sold to raise money for the MS Society, named after the year the charity was formed.

Tracey Harrison, who manages the MS Society’s Living Well programme, nominated Kirsty on behalf of the charity.

She said: “Kirsty typifies everything the self management model looks to achieve. After completing one of our self management courses, she put into practice what she had learnt and could directly see the benefit this had not just on her but on her husband and wider family. She decided then that she wanted to give that same support to others who were starting out on their MS journey.

“Kirsty has been very humble about being nominated for this award but the positive impact she’s had on the lives of hundreds of people living with MS across Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom cannot be underestimated.

“No matter what happens on the evening, she will always be a winner to us.”