For several weeks speculation has been growing around what’s causing Coronation Street builder Paul Foreman’s clumsiness. At first his symptoms were blamed on a recent car accident, but doctors have now ruled that out and insisted Paul undergo more tests.
In tonight’s episode (Friday 24 March) Paul, played by actor Peter Ash, will be referred to a specialist and in April he will be given a diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND).
In a first for the television soap, a well-loved character will receive a diagnosis of the life-limiting disease, and the storyline will follow the progression of his disease, the impact it has on him and his loved ones, and the challenges he faces as he loses his mobility, and his ability to eat and speak.
The Coronation Street team has been working on the storyline for months, supported by experts from the Motor Neurone Disease Association. The charity’s team has been advising researchers, scriptwriters and the actors involved.
Peter spent time with Mike Small, who like Paul worked in the building trade, who has MND, hearing how the early symptoms had affected him physically and emotionally. He’s also followed the story of Rob Burrow, our patron and rugby league legend who was diagnosed with MND more than three years ago.
Peter said: “Real people’s stories are so inspirational, and I feel a responsibility. We act it but there will be people watching who are living with it – it’s very important to get it right.”
Paul’s on screen boyfriend Billy Mayhew is played by actor Daniel Brocklebank whose grandfather died of MND 20 years ago. He is an MND Association ambassador. He said: “We have a huge opportunity to educate – we are in people’s living rooms for three hours a week – it will evoke conversations and questions within families. This is going to reach a new audience and hopefully will increase awareness and discussion.”
The Association will continue its involvement with the Coronation Street team and is putting in measures to support the MND community as the storyline progresses.
Director of External Affairs Chris James said: “We are really grateful to the team at Coronation Street for choosing to tackle this subject – putting MND in front of six million viewers every week will raise incredible awareness and help educate people who have never come across the disease – showing the day to day reality of those living with it and the impact on friends, family and the wider community.
“Our teams are working to ensure there is support in place for anyone who may be affected by the programme. And we are continuing to work closely with the Coronation Street team to understand when the MND storyline will be given prominence, and when particular issues will be highlighted on screen so we can be prepared.”
Support is available. The MND Connect helpline offers information and support on all aspects of MND and can signpost to other organisations when required.
MND Connect is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and 7pm to 10.30pm. Calls are free.
Tel: 0808 802 6262
For more information about MND and the MND Association please visit www.mndassociation.org