Disabled pensioner’s fears as communications collapse

MS sufferer Joyce Fox (66) whose phone has been cut off for two weeks in her home near Hawick.
MS sufferer Joyce Fox (66) whose phone has been cut off for two weeks in her home near Hawick.

A PENSIONER who has a multiple sclerosis and lives alone in a farm cottage has had no phone, mobile or internet connection for over a week.

Joyce Fox, who can’t drive because of her MS, lives more than six miles from Hawick and relies on the internet for banking, paying her bills online, and grocery shopping, which she gets delivered.

She said: “It’s really frustrating. I can’t check my bank balance and my rent is due out on Thursday (today).

“I have been the victim of identity theft in the past and have an account I transfer money from to my current account for my rent, and I haven’t been able to do that. I don’t know how much is in my account.”

But she was also unwell last week and unable to ring a doctor or the specialist MS nurse.

She said: “I felt as if I had been punched, I was totally out of breath and I had laryngitis, sinusitis and a cough. I don’t know what was happening to me. I couldn’t get in touch with the MS nurse to tell her.”

The 66-year-old last saw the specialist nurse last year and told her she would only be in touch if her condition changed.

Mrs Fox said: “My neighbour (whose phone she borrowed several times to report the fault) deserves a medal, but I can’t tie up her line.”

The pensioner returned from a family gathering two Sundays ago (March 3) to find she had no landline or internet access, nor could she use her Vodafone mobile phone which needs the broadband connection as a booster to work.

“I rely on all these things because I’m too weak to drive, my legs and arms and hands won’t work to drive. If I go anywhere I go by taxi, but it’s expensive,” she said.

Her son Stephen had driven her home that Sunday and discovered the connection breakdown when he tried to send a video of the family celebration he’d promised his family.

Mrs Fox rang her service operator, Plusnet, who told her they would check with their provider (BT) and that the connections would be restored by last Saturday (March 9), six days later.

“I waited to the ninth but nothing happened,” said Mrs Fox.

She phoned again and was told it would happen by Monday night, but that it could be as late as midnight.

Mrs Fox, a grandmother, said: “I sat up to past midnight, but still nothing.”

She said: “Plusnet have been very sympathetic and said they wish they could do more.”

They told her BT had said it was a problem with her equipment but she checked it and it wasn’t. Then Plusnet said BT thought it was a problem with the line outside.

Now Mrs Fox has been told BT is waiting to get the go-ahead to dig up a nearby road to mend the line, with work expected to start today (March 14).

Since she lost her connection, another two neighbours have suffered the same fate.

A spokesperson for Plusnet said: “We have been in regular contact with Ms Fox and hope to have her service restored very soon.”

But neighbour, Trish Akers, whose phone Mrs Fox borrowed to ring Plusnet, said the company has not initiated any communication with Mrs Fox.

The Plusnet spokesperson admitted the company had texted their customer and that Mrs Fox would not have received the texts because her mobile was not working.

Mrs Akers said: “Joyce is very distressed. She’s had no communication (from Plusnet or BT) at all. They could have written a letter.

“I phoned up (on Mrs Fox’s behalf) at one point, but was not allowed to continue and they were quite rude. It’s really bad.”

Mrs Fox, whose three children live in Dubai and Wales, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1983. The neurological condition causes fatigue and weakness, and has become progressive.

She told us: “I can’t walk unaided. You know when people climb mountains and feel a sense of achievement? My personal mountain is getting through each day.”

She is so exhausted by late afternoon that she prepares her evening meal earlier in the day.

She said: “My body is just so tired, the muscles get so tired, By 5pm, I have made my evening meal and I just collapse.”

Her food stocks are dwindling – she last bought groceries two Sundays ago when her son took her to the supermarket. But the professionally-trained chef has three freezers and said: “I make sure they are well stocked. They are getting a bit low now, but I’m resourceful.”

The Plusnet spokesperson said yesterday: “The fault has been tracked down to an underground section of the (Hawick to Bonchester Bridge) A6088. Three-way traffic lights are needed to allow safe access for underground equipment and to ensure that traffic can pass along the road. Work is scheduled to start tomorrow (March 14).

“We’re hopeful that the permanent repair will be completed soon after.

“As a gesture of good will, we will refund Ms Fox’s service costs for the period she has been offline.”