Sunderland councillor seriously ill with brain disorder

Councillor Bernie Scaplehorn

Councillor Bernie Scaplehorn

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LABOUR councillor Bernard Scaplehorn is in a serious condition in hospital after being diagnosed with a rare neurological condition.

The Washington West councillor is in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where doctors are planning to put him on life support to allow his body to rest.

Although he is seriously ill, he is expected to recover, deputy leader Harry Trueman said.

Speaking at the September full council meeting, Coun Trueman said Coun Scaplehorn, 71, started having a problem with his eye about three weeks ago, for which he sought help. It was found the muscles around his eyeball had collapsed.

While awaiting further tests, his other eye became affected, and he was admitted to hospital, where he was diagnosed with muscle-weakening condition Myasthenia Gravis (MG).

“It’s treatable but it develops in different ways,” Coun Trueman told the meeting at Sunderland Civic Centre. “Bernie is quite seriously ill.

“His son visited him on Tuesday morning and he had difficulty breathing.

“He had tubes inserted in his throat.

“The intention was to put him on life support. I’m not sure whether that’s already happened, but that would allow him to have a couple of days of rest.

“We wish him the very best,” Coun Trueman added.

Sunderland Mayor Stuart Porthouse also sent his best wishes, adding: “Our thoughts go out to Bernie and his family. I’ll send a card on behalf of everyone.”

Coun Scaplehorn, who lives in Blackfell, was first elected in May 2008. He is the chairman of the Washington Area Committee and a member of the planning and highways committee and the Hetton, Houghton and Washington development control sub-committee.

He also sits on external bodies, including Bowes Railway Company, Northumbria Centre Sports Trust and Springwell Community Venture. He is on the board of governors for Blackfell Primary School and Springwell Village Primary School.

Rare condition affects just one in 10,000

MYASTHENIA Gravis – which means “grave muscle weakness” – is a rare condition, affecting about one in every 10,000 people in the UK.

It can develop at any age, but most commonly affects women under 40 and men over 60.

It is a long-term autoimmune neuromuscular condition that affects the nerves and muscles, causing certain muscles to become weak.

It mainly affects muscles that are controlled voluntarily – often those controlling eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, swallowing and talking.

Sometimes, the muscles that control breathing, neck and limb movements are also affected.

There is no cure for myasthenia gravis, but treatments are available to help control the symptoms and improve muscle weakness.

In most cases, treatment for myasthenia gravis significantly improves muscle weakness and a person with the condition is able to lead a relatively normal life.