Jennifer Interviews - Melita Denaro

When you meet Melita Denaro for the first time, the obvious thing that strikes you is her positive attitude and enthusiasm for life. Originally from Burt and educated in London, Melita now lives in a cottage in the Isle of Doagh. The peaceful surroundings of the countryside and her love of nature are a great source of inspiration for her work as an artist. She does not let the fact that she has MS stop her from living a productive life.

“I have had MS since 1996. It started off with bladder problems and developed from there. At first I was using a stick, then two crutches, and then I was furniture walking around the house. I eventually accepted the fact that I needed to use the wheelchair about four years ago. I have to be helped in and out of bed because I can’t stand on my own. I have to get help to wash and get to bed at night. I have to be helped into the car to work and I have a PA to help me when I’m there. The Pas help me to cook, wash my hair, and to just get on with my day. I also have someone to come and help me with physiotherapy.”

Melita works as an artist, painting landscapes of local scenic areas. Her paintings have proved to be very successful, and her work has featured in many exhibitions.

“I paint in a field at the bottom of the Isle of Doagh near the castle. I paint from one spot, but everything looks different depending on the time of day, the seasons and the weather. Sometimes there are cattle in the field that I can paint. I paint for a few hours every day in this field. I go to London once a month to promote and sell my work, and I have a studio there. I have to bring a PA with me to assist me with personal tasks. I have an assistant to help me at work, through a scheme called ‘access to work’, which enables people with disabilities in the U.K to stay in employment. I do travel a lot on my own but I can’t go on the boat because it means going overnight on the ferry.”

Melita’s cottage is an artist’s home, with some of her paintings displayed on the walls. Her beloved terrier Liffen is always close by, keeping an eye on her as she moves around in her wheelchair. Although she has owned the house since the seventies, Melita had to have it adapted to make it completely accessible as her MS progressed.

“I just got a new kitchen recently, with a stove and space so I can do some of my own cooking and washing. I got a grant for that, and already it is changing my life.”

Melita has also gained great independence through the help of her personal assistants.

“Having so many PAS is like running an aircraft! Everyone is brilliant and they know each other, so if somebody can’t do something or needs a night off, I usually have a backup to do the work. Before I had a PA, I managed with great difficulty. I had to use all my wages and my savings to pay people to help me. If I am sick, which is very rare, there is no work being produced, so I have less money. I think there are people who are more deserving than I am of hours from DCIL, because at least I can earn a living to help pay for the assistance I need. If I didn’t have a service like DCIL to provide a PA, and my work as a painter to finance the extra costs, I would definitely not be able to live outside an institution. It is incredible that it has kept me free of that. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, if Mary-Frances or one of my PA’s wasn’t coming to get me out of bed in a minute, I would just be lying here, eventually in my own excrement. I feel great now. I know it’s terrible not to be able to walk or to do personal tasks yourself, but I’m pretty lucky. I’m more lucky than unlucky. There are so many things I am able to do because I have help. I have ten hours a week from DCIL, but in reality I need ten hours a day. They have tried to get my hours increased and I am very grateful for the help they have given me. My work life, and therefore my quality of life would not have been possible without the service that the Donegal centre for independent living provide.”