Emma's Story



Emma’s Story

“My name is Emma McDowell – for anyone who might speak Hungarian my maiden name is Aldobolyi Nagi Emma. When I was 21 I moved to Belfast and married Robert McDowell, I was 25 years old when our first son George was born. Before he reached his first birthday we knew he had Cerebral Palsy. He is in his early 40’s now and lives at home with us. He has got a job but needs a lot of support to stay employed which is very important to him and us.

After George’s diagnosis my main challenge was to enable him to reach his full potential. Due to my Hungarian origins I discovered Conductive Education and found it to be the most suitable therapeutic and educational method towards his goal. We visited the Peto Institute in Budapest when he was one and spent many months here under their direct care and guidance.

I learned to be a conductor at home so George was brought up in a conductive family atmosphere. It is called education because of the constant extra learning that is required to bring about –if at all possible- such things as walking, talking and self care in a child who otherwise wouldn’t reach these changes.

Spending so much time away from home was not easy my husband was working in Belfast which meant long periods of separation. I was a trained German teacher but I suspended my own career (going part time) in order to care for George the way he needed to be cared for: conductively. I became active in organisations which recognize the needs of carers, too, because we all redouble ourselves when we became carers: living our own life and the life of the one we care for – and most of us would – instinctively, and for love – not put our own life first.

I was a founder member of the British Foundation for Conductive Education, and when George got his degree and job I recognised myself as a carer. By joining Carers UK some 20 years ago I became very active there, raising awareness of our cause and promoting our need. Doing this gives one a great feeling of empowerment and lifts you out of the isolation every carer feels at one time or another. It is due to these organisations that the work of family carers is much more recognised and appreciated in Britain nowadays, to the extent that we receive actual support ourselves.

I have been working as an interpreter for the past 10 years and have opportunities to meet Hungarians who are carers and settled here in Northern Ireland. I try my best to support then using our own language which is already a help. During my 40 odd years as a carer I have gathered enough experience of the difficulties in accesing the many and varied services and agencies which one has to get used to and in dealing with the bureaucracy of it all.

For people who not have English as their first language and are new to the system this must be a minefield and I do appreciate the support given by the Ethnic carers groups to these carers and their families. Even though I spoke English when I immigrated to Northern Ireland it took me a long time to get used to a different culture, I never stopped missing my own family and my Hungarian climate!”