Why people like Ronnie Cook are unsung heroes who deserve admiration and respect – Steve Cardownie

Carers who look after loved ones suffering from long-term serious conditions are worthy of the highest praise, writes Steve Cardownie.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 6:00 am
Vicky gets strapped into the microlight which took her soaring over the Lothians. Picture: contributed

For Ronnie Cook and Vicky Davidson it was love at first sight, although they didn’t know at the time that they were the victims of a set-up orchestrated by their mothers, who were determined that they should meet. Two so-called ‘spare’ seats on the bus outing to Blackpool on the ­September weekend in 1959 was all that it took and nature did the rest. From that day on, they were inseparable, getting married in 1962 and living happily together until Vicky’s untimely death six years ago yesterday.

Vicky was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1988 and was looked after with love and devotion by Ronnie until the end.

Ronnie told me that Vicky worked as a hairdresser at Charles Baty in Comely Bank and he ran Hume Radio on Leith Walk, which he later ­purchased, and that hardly a cross word passed between them throughout their ­marriage. Vicky never complained about her condition and was ­determined to enjoy herself, despite the MS taking hold and becoming increasingly debilitating. Her daughter, Susan, and son, David, did whatever they could to ensure that their mother’s quality of life was all that it could be, including helping to fulfil one of Vicky’s ambitions.

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One night, when she was enjoying her favourite whisky and lemonade, she mentioned that she had seen a microlight passing above and that she would dearly love to take to the air in one, soaring like a bird over the ­Lothians, taking in the scenery.

So, with the assistance of the staff at Leuchie House in North Berwick (where Vicky received respite care) she took to the skies just a few short years before she passed on.

Well looked after by dedicated staff

Ronnie told me that, although he never gave it a second thought, he could understand how carers sometimes felt isolated and emotionally drained during this difficult time, watching a loved-one gradually ­succumbing to a degenerative disease and the strain that it could cause. He was full of praise for the NHS and the care that it provided, as well as heaping praise on the staff at Leuchie House.

A Category A listed building, this three-storey mansion situated in ­spacious grounds, offering short breaks with expert care for people with MS (and other long term conditions), was launched as an independent charity in 2011 after The MS Society decided to close it. A high-profile Save Leuchie campaign was ultimately successful, allowing it to continue to provide top quality care and attention.

Its entry in the VisitScotland website states: “We specialise in offering respite breaks for people with long-term conditions, with 24-hour care, fun activities and outings, and home-made food in a beautiful country house. We specialise in breaks for people with multiple ­sclerosis, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy, the effects of stroke and spinal injuries, and other long-term conditions. Because we are specialists at what we do, you can be confident you’ll receive expert, personalised care, 24 hours a day.”

Vicky thoroughly enjoyed her breaks there and the family could rest, safe in the knowledge that she was being well looked after and entertained by the dedicated staff.

Ronnie often listens to Vicky’s favourite song, Up on the Roof by The Drifters, reminiscing about his time with her and not regretting a single second from when they first ‘accidentally’ met until she was rushed into hospital, never to return to the family home after 51 years of blissful marriage.

Carers like Ronnie devote themselves to the wellbeing of others, loved ones, family members or friends, unstintingly putting others before themselves and should be recognised as unsung heroes deserving of our admiration and respect.