Music brings young violinist Matthew back to life once again!

Music is pulling Matthew Blake back from the brink of an ME relapse that left him bedbound and unable to cope with even the most basic activities of daily living.

The 21-year-old, once a lead violinist with the Young Sinfonia orchestra at the Sage Gateshead, is emerging from a two-year period during which he was left bedbound, unable at times to even manage a simple conversation. While still flat on his back. he’s now managed to write and release his first song and has now finished work on an EP, which is due to be released on 4th August.

His mother, Dr Sue Blake – a Sunderland GP for 20 years – said learning about ME/CFS after her son became ill has been “a total eye-opener to me… the steepest learning curve ever!”

At the end of last year the family saw clear signs of Matthew re-awakening after months of being out of it. They helped give him the means to find his personality once again.

“Matt was doing simple things like colouring and drawing and his cognitive function improved quite rapidly. So we got some small instruments he could handle in bed – a mandolin, a kalimba, things like that – and amazingly we started to hear him tinkering with them.”

Matthew has now downloaded music-production software, ordered himself a microphone and some headphones, and released his first song, ‘The Suburban Dilemma’, on Spotify and Apple Music.

Left: Matthew on stage with the Young Sinfonia orchestra in Gateshead; Right – taking applause after playing piano for a ‘Little Shop of Horrors'

He has found his voice again and, in an email to the ME Association, he wrote: “I’ve had to come to terms with not being able to record with live instruments anymore.  Initially, I thought this was a big blow but this hasn’t really stifled my creative output.

“There’s also something difficult about trying to carve something out of a deeply painful and traumatic situation. But I have no regrets whatsoever about pushing myself to create in this way. It’s given meaning to my life that simply wasn’t there a year ago.”

At this point, the ME Association has been kindly let into the equation.

The family want to do something to raise the profile of the illness among their contacts – medical and otherwise – so they’ve nominated Matthew’s dad Darren, a local architect, and his younger brother, 19-year-old Adam, to take part in the Great North Run on 10th September to raise money for the charity.

If you would like to donate to their fundraiser, the link is at the foot of this story.

“Matthew probably developed ME in a mild, under-the-radar way around the age of 16 after a bout of flu and penumonia but it started to have a significant impact at the age of 18 when he was about to take his A-levels”, said Sue.

“During the pandemic, things progressed and for likely multiple reasons, having managed and functioned reasonably well until then, in April 2021 his symptoms began spiralling downwards, despite our very best efforts.”

He last left the house in September 2021 to go to an NHS assessment appointment following which he found it harder and harder to even get out of bed.

“This time last year he was at his lowest point. He was unable to tolerate light, sound, touch, unable to think or process information, unable to cope with conversation, to watch or listen to any media, his phone, ipad, tv, unable to listen to music or do anything but lie there and try to get through each day. He had to cope with often horrendous symptoms that would come on whenever he ‘overdid it'. This could be as little as speaking to one of us for a few minutes.

“Around six months ago, he hit a period of stability, following which there has been some recovery. His symptoms are nowhere near as severe as they were, he is much less sensitive to stimuli, but most importantly he has been able to engage with music again.

“Matthew is super intelligent and a brilliant musician, always loved performing in any capacity/setting and alongside others. The cruellest thing about last year wasn’t his inability to stand up, it was his inability to think and particularly for his brain to cope with music.”

If you’ve been impressed by Matthew’s story, please donate to Darren and Adam's fundraiser at the link below:

Family photo taken in days before Matthew was severely affected by ME/CFS.

Tony Britton
Senior Fundraising Consultant, The ME Association Mob: 07393 805566

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