Norwich woman to do sponsored walk after Harleston mum struck down with rare MSA disease

A young hairdresser is doing a sponsored walk for charity after her mother was diagnosed with a very rare neurological disease.

Laura Hughes, 24, will walk more than 18 miles from her home in Norwich to her mum's in Harleston to raise awareness of, and money for research into, MSA (multiple system atrophy) – a disease which is similar to Parkinson's but has no known cure or treatment.

Laura, of Grove Road, said: 'She's gone from being a very normal, active person to being cooped up, unable to move, walk or talk easily – it's heartbreaking. She's got something for the pain, but there's nothing to slow it down.'

She added: 'MSA rapidly shuts down the body but the mind stays intact – the symptoms are very similar to Parkinson's at first and often it is mistaken for Parkinson's. There are only five in every 100,000 people with it. Even most doctors have never heard of it – luckily we found someone who had.'

Her mum, Helen, 57, first fell ill last August and was taken to hospital after a couple of falls, then woke up one morning unable to move. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's in January, then diagnosed with MSA in May.

'The Parkinson's medication wasn't working for her – she just got worse and worse, so we pushed the doctors to look into it and one of the specialists knew about MSA,' said Laura, who has three sisters aged 19-26.

'I've heard of people being diagnosed with Parkinson's for five years before discovering it's actually MSA.

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'It's very uncommon, so people don't understand it and there's very little help for people with MSA. Just knowing that many more people would be correctly diagnosed would be fantastic. Unfortunately, my mum's life will be shortened dramatically and we are trying to enjoy life with her while we can. But I hope that doing this walk may help people in the future,' she added.

Laura, who works at Stryke Studios in Timberhill, Norwich, is doing the walk with friends, family and colleagues in aid of the MSA Trust on Sunday, September 23.

If you would like to help her fundraising efforts, visit

To find out more about MSA, visit

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