By Rory Reynolds
A Glasgow schoolboy has uncovered scientific research that may help his mum battle MS – after getting inspiration from Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart.
Ryan McLaughlin set up the campaign Shine on Scotland, after watching Mel Gibson as William Wallace give the famous battle speech in the 1995 hit.
He said: “It was the one about how you get one chance to make a difference. It really hit home and made me think that I couldn’t be idle any more. This was my one chance to help my mum”
Sitting at his home computer day and night, Ryan corresponded by email with top research scientists at Oxford University and British Columbia University in Canada to gather information on the disease.
Scotland has the highest rate of MS in the world, and the 14-year-old helped researchers to establish that a lack of sunlight can heighten the risk of MS and that vitamin D supplements given during pregnancy could prevent the disease later in life.
Ryan’s mum Kirsten, 34, has suffered from the disease for two years and has had more than 13 relapses.
Ryan’s work on the campaign has brought the family closer together. Ryan’s 10-year-old brother Darren has learned about the disease and helped his brother with the campaign.
His mum said: “The kids know a lot about MS, how it doesn’t just affect one person but the entire family.”
“It’s been difficult.” said Ryan’s dad, Alan. “The kids have seen their mum in pain. They have seen their mum in pain. They have heard her crying in the night because the pain is so bad. They call MS the invisible disease because you don’t see the full effects.
“You see someone when they are feeling their best, when they’re out and about. You don’t see them during a relapse or when they’re in agony.”
Kirsten and Alan are incredibly proud of their son’s efforts. “We’ve helped but, this has been Ryan’s idea,” said Alan.
As part of the campaign Ryan has addressed MSPs and will deliver a petition to Holyrood next month to urge the Scottish Government to provide vitamin D to all schoolchildren and pregnant women.
He has also won the support of Harry Potter author JK Rowling, whose mother died from MS.
He said: “I’m doing it to help my mum and other families in our situation. I think we can bring about change for future generations and prevent more cases of MS.
“People like my mum have had to suffer enough with this disease. We believe that with something as simple as vitmin D we can get rid of the tag that Scotland is the MS capital of the world.”