Green MP diagnosed with MS

Golriz Ghahraman. Photo: RNZ
Golriz Ghahraman. Photo: RNZ
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has revealed she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and hopes to remove some of the stigma around the disease.

Ghahraman said she first learned of her diagnosis two years ago when she began to lose sight in one eye.

Multiple Sclerosis - or MS - is a disorder of the central nervous system and can affect the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

Ghahraman, who is in her late 30s, told Morning Report it was frightening when she began to lose sight, but hoped it would resolve on its own.

"I'm one of those people who thought 'she'll be right' and didn't go see a doctor and kept turning up to work. Eventually, my colleagues said after this sitting week, you're going to the hospital."

She said MS affects people differently and hers was one of the more alarming ones.

"You think, is this going to become a constant in my life, will I lose vision completely. But I had this incredible access to care and everyone in the hospital kept me calm and kept telling me that it's an illness that people can live with it really well - which has been my experience over the last couple of years."

Ghahraman said there was an initial period of shock which she got through by connecting with fellow sufferers.

"Eventually, once I felt like I had a handle on what it was to live with MS, I realised there's a stigma and maybe that's a little bit unfair."

She said people in the community told her about their fears of speaking out publicly about their diagnosis for fear they could miss out on jobs or promotions.

"I just thought, wow, we need to talk about this.

"There is a stigma and maybe that's stopping us from having that sense of equality to care and to be treated as who we actually still are.

"After the diagnosis, I thought might help to have someone that's in the public eye and doing work that's considered demanding while living with MS."

She said the other thing she realised was that, while lucky to live in a country where people have access to healthcare, there are major challenges the health system faces.

"But, our healthcare system is very under-resourced in different ways. So, while we have all these incredible nurses and doctors running around and trying to do their best with what they have, for MS sufferers at least, for me there was a huge waitlist for the MRI scan I needed just to get the diagnosis.

"All these are things we kind of know, but we don't know until we've lived it and lived with the anxiety of trying to manoeuvre through the health system, so that's the other thing I thought we needed to talk about more."

Ghahraman grew up in Iran, before fleeing to New Zealand with her family as a 9-year-old seeking political asylum.

She became a Green Party MP in 2017, the first former refugee to be elected to New Zealand's Parliament.

Before politics she earned a Master's degree at Oxford University in International Human Rights Law, and was a human rights and constitutional lawyer for 12 years, having worked in Africa, The Hague and Cambodia.

- RNZ and NZ Herald 

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