“MS took my life away. Accountancy brought it back”

Multiple sclerosis brought Dean Senior’s engineering career to an end.

After years of uncertainty, he found focus in accounting.

Dean Senior was an engineer when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). It was a shock; he had no idea what it was. “I did the worst thing you can ever do when you get told you have an illness: I went online and looked it up. Within three pages of searching, you decide you’re dead,” he says.

MS is a condition that affects the nervous system, causing physical and mental symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, spasms and memory loss.

Suddenly, Senior’s job became impossible: “I had to stop, because I couldn’t work full-time in a physically demanding role.”

Senior spent the next few years without a sense of direction, unsure about what to do. During this time, his illness was debilitating: “There were times when I would spend nine months in bed, when I couldn’t move or anything.”

Then a neighbour suggested he try accountancy. He did some research; everyone he spoke to recommended AAT as a starting point. So he thought he’d give it a try. “I didn’t really value school when I was there,” he says. “I didn’t value what they were trying to give me. So I had to start again, basically. I had to do my NVQ Level 1 and 2 in maths and English first.”

Still unsure whether accountancy was for him, Senior decided to take the AAT access course. To his surprise, he knew more about it than he thought: he’d handled invoices and purchase orders in his previous career.

“I started to realise why the accounts team got mad when I didn’t put a number on the invoice!” Senior progressed to the Foundation Certificate and passed with merit. He swiftly moved on to the Advanced Diploma, which he’s studying now.

Since developing his accounting skills, he’s put them to use by volunteering at local charities. He now works as a volunteer accounts assistant at Yorkshire Children’s Centre in Huddersfield.

He also wants to give something back to the MS Society. “When I first got diagnosed, they were a massive help – not always financially, but they gave a lot of support through knowledge,” he explains.

“So I want to give something back to them.” Senior has approached the MS Society about working there, and the society has offered to cover part of his training costs, so that he can take the position of treasurer at the local branch.

“This has given me a focus,” he says. “It is hard, but you do what you have to do. That’s life: it throws stuff at you. You’ve just got to get on with it.”

Mark Rowland is a journalist and former editor of Accounting Technician and 20 magazine.

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