IN his darkest moments, using drugs and drink to escape his health problems, Kieran Byrne admits his thoughts turned to suicide.

“I wanted to escape, I thought my life was at an end anyway,” he says. 

“When I got referred to the hospice, that just confirmed it for me. I thought I was coming here to die. Instead, this place gave me a new life.”

Kieran has spinal muscular atrophy, a serious condition which causes problems with movement as muscles get weaker over time.

“It means I am weaker than everyone else, and I can have respiratory problems,” explains the 24-year-old, who lives in Bellshill with his mum and dad, Sandra and Mark, and nine-year-old half-brother Marcus.

“I was diagnosed at the age of 18 months, so it’s always been part of my life.

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“I’d always just accepted it, and when I was younger I just got on with my life, hung about with my mates didn’t mind being in a wheelchair at all.”

He adds: “It’s progressive, so a few years ago, I started to deteriorate and that’s when I found it difficult to deal with things. 

“I thought I was going to die. I’d gone from living a normal life to needing care constantly. I needed help with my food, I couldn’t drink anything unless it was through a straw and I was just constantly tired and sore.”

He adds: “So when the hospice was suggested to me, that just confirmed it. In my head, I thought the professionals were saying to me that I was going to die.”

Kieran, who loves watching horse-racing, started to gamble more and more heavily.

“I was using it as a way to escape,” he says. 

“I was drinking a lot – too much. I started taking drugs. I know it’s not the way to deal with problems, it just makes it worse, but I wasn’t coping with anything or thinking clearly.

“Looking around me, it seemed like my mates were doing all the things I thought made up a normal life – going out clubbing, going on holiday – and I couldn’t do these things.

“It made me angry. I had a lot of anger management problems.”

He adds: “I tried going to see psychologists and psychiatrists, but nothing worked. I thought about suicide, I really did. I just wanted to end it all.”

In a quiet counselling room at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, Kieran is keen to tell his story. Straightforward and polite, he is firm about the messages he wants to get across, rarely needing the reassurance offered by his support worker who sits in on the interview, and he is very clear about the positive role the hospice has played in his life.

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He is a world away from the picture he paints of himself just over a year ago – a desperate, lonely young man, full of dread and fear about his future.

“When I was referred to the hospice for counselling, everything changed,” he says.
Glasgow’s Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice is based in brand new, state of the art premises in Bellahouston Park.

Evening Times readers generously supported the hospice’s £21m Brick by Brick fundraising appeal for the new building. The appeal ran for six years, culminating in 2018.

Now, the PPWH has launched a follow-up campaign, Let’s Keep On Caring, in the hope that people will continue to support the hospice with regular donations.

The PPWH receives just under half (41 per cent) of its funding from the NHS, and relies on the generosity of supporters to raise the £3m it needs to provide its services every year. 
Kieran has made a short video to help raise awareness of the new campaign.

“I came to the hospice for counselling and it has helped me a lot. You see life from different angles in here. It’s helped me learn a lot about myself and accept who I am, accept my life in a wheelchair – that this is just how life is going to be for me,” he explains.

“Instead of coming here to die, it gave me hope. It helped me cope with my demons and it helped me deal with what happened to me.”

Kieran adds: “I wanted to do the video to help the hospice.

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“By telling my story, maybe I’ll be able to help other people with mental health problems understand that it’s OK not to be OK, and you can get help.

“I still have bad days, of course, but now I know what to do to be able to deal with them. It’s all about having that positive mindset and finding coping strategies.

“The hospice does so much more than just counselling too – the help I have received is just a fraction of what they offer.

“It’s helped my family too, taken away some of the stress for them.”

He adds: “Coming to the hospice has made me a stronger person and look at the difference between how I am now and how I was 18 months ago. I was suicidal, now I want to live again.”