There was a rock n’roll band, drinks in the sunshine and games to be played, but it was a poignant afternoon at the Seabreeze Bar, where tears mingled with the salty air.
Friends and supporters of Paul and Carol Schofield came to the venue in Küçük Erenköy for the first MND Awareness Day in North Cyprus, a chance to raise funds for research into the deadly disease, but mainly to applaud the couple, whose hopes of a loving retirement in the sun have been cruelly dashed. Motor neurone disease (MND) is a fatal, rapidly progressing neurological disease. It attacks the nerves that control movement (motor neurones) so that muscles no longer work.
There is no cure for MND, it is always fatal, but some people live with it for many years. The late Professor Stephen Hawking was probably the best-known sufferer, having been diagnosed at the age of just 21. More recently, the plight of Rugby League player Rob Burrows has been in the headlines.
Carol Schofield, an attractive and vivacious retired policewoman, was diagnosed in 2019. Husband Paul, a former Army officer, is now her full-time carer. The couple document their battle with the disease on social media, to create lasting memories and show friends and family how they are coping.
Multiple tests at the Near East University Hospital confirmed their fears. Paul said: “We were heartbroken. We were in denial. We didn’t want it to be Motor Neurone Disease. We wanted them to have made a mistake.” He praised the dedication of the doctors treating Carol.
North Cyprus boasts a number of excellent private hospitals with the latest hi-tech equipment and staffed by doctors trained mainly in Turkey, but also in Britain, Europe and the USA. Citizens are entitled to free treatment at state hospitals, although they may have to pay for their medication. A visit to a general practice doctor costs about £20.
Dentists are also highly-skilled and much cheaper than in Britain or Europe. Many people also come to North Cyprus for aesthetic surgery, IVF treatment, and other medical procedures.
Paul added: “Carol’s the bravest person I have ever met. The girl I met, fell in love with and married, who looked after me like a lord, she now needs me. It’s her hour of need and it’s up to me to look after Carol as best I can. I feel proud and privileged every day to be able to do that.”