16th Annual Convention and AGM, May 2007
Sunday 13th May 2007, Holiday Inn Hotel, Plymouth, Devon
Saturday 12th May saw a Meet and Greet session held at the Holiday Inn for those that had traveled down for the Convention the day before. We were welcomed by Richard Day the Chairman of the Devon Lupus Group and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth. Old acquaintances were renewed and new ones made over a cup tea. We were lucky to have two local MPs attend circulating and finding out more about lupus.
Sunday morning arrived and people eagerly queued to register and collect their Convention packs (this year supported by Ultrasun, Plymouth Gin and BioXtra (chewing gum). People mingled and drank coffee before being ushered into the Convention hall only to discover that technology had been caught by a gremlin. We were welcomed to the Convention by our new Chair, Jane Dunnage (left) and then by Richard Day, Chairman of the Devon Group, to Plymouth. The Devon Group was delighted to be hosting this year's Convention and welcomed us all. Richard reminded us why Plymouth was an important city with the Pilgrim Fathers finally leaving England from there, Sir Francis Drake famously playing bowls before he beat the Spanish Armada, Cooksworthy discovering China clay in the area and for the Royal Navy.
Our first speaker, Alec Rickard spoke to us about "Living with Chronic Pain". Alec is a physiotherapy lecturer at the University of Plymouth having led pain clinics in various NHS establishments. He reminded us that pain means different things to different people - the pain of giving birth for example is something people often repeat so whilst it may be a lot of pain, it is not necessarily bad. He also told us about the "pain gate theory" looking at the complexity of pain and the role of the brain.
Alec took some questions from the floor before he handed over to Sister Sue Brown a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Connective Tissue Disease at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath. Sue's post is funded by LUPUS UK.
Sue's talk was entitled "Not Another Diagnosis? (Secondary Diagnoses to Lupus)" and she spoke eloquently about Raynaud's, Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS) and Sjögrens and what we should expect from specialist nurses. All these conditions are autoimmune conditions like lupus and is when the immune system dysfunctions. As with lupus more women than men are affected by all these conditions.
We then had a break for coffee and to stretch our legs before reconvening to hear Dr Paul Eggleton speak about "Autoantibody Profiling to Identify Individuals at Risk of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus". Paul is a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at the Peninsula Medical School. He spoke about the research that he is undertaking on predicting who will get lupus and what problems they may have through their genes. The main thrust of his work includes answering the following questions: Why do our self proteins turn into autoantigens? Are the antibodies generated against autoantigens important in autoimmune disease? And can the study of autoantigen formation and the immune response against it be used to a) diagnose disease and b) be used to generate therapeutics.
The AGM then took place. Jane Dunnage addressed the Convention and spoke about the four 'I's of lupus. Isolation, Invisibility, Involvement and Influence. Tony Rance gave us a summary of the Charity's financial position from the audited accounts and was pleased to advise that the charity is in a healthy position. The accounts were adopted by the Convention. Chris Maker then reported to us the work of the Charity from a National Office perspective. Once again Chris' main aim for the year is to raise awareness about lupus in the community, including the medical part of it. The Auditor, John Clark, was then appointed.
Devon Group member David Hopkins had put in a resolution to change our Constitution in respect of the voting method for the Member Trustees. Currently the Member Trustees are elected by National Council (Group Chairs or their representative) and they felt that it would be more democratic if they were elected by the Charity's membership (i.e. all of us). David Hopkins put the case forward for the Group and Jack Hirst, Yorkshire Group, spoke against the motion. Several people from the floor spoke, some in favour and some against the resolution. Members were asked to use their voting slips and hand them in as they retired for lunch. There needed to be a two-thirds majority for the motion to be carried.
Lunch was taken in the Hotel's restaurant on the top floor with a view over Plymouth Hoe, the harbour and the sea. The weather had cleared a little from the mornings down pour and was now only drizzling so the view had improved for those that had taken their breakfast in the restaurant!
Back in the Convention hall, the results of the vote to change the method of voting for Member Trustees was announced as 2 abstained, 40 for and 59 against and therefore the resolution was not carried.
Our last speaker was Dr Christopher Gardner-Thorpe (right) Consultant Neurologist whose talk was entitled "Lupus and the Nervous System". He spoke about how the nervous system is involved in lupus and how problems were diagnosed. Questions were taken from the floor and then we moved on to the entertainment.
The Devon Group had arranged the entertainment for us and 'The Wag from Widecombe', Tony Beard told us tales from the area and sang some songs and was very entertaining. The Convention Draw followed, and the closing of the Convention with a reminder that next year's will be in Glasgow. Tea was taken by those that wanted it and we all said our good byes.
Once again, in my opinion the Convention was really worthwhile attending. It is really interesting to hear more about lupus and good to meet others with the condition and I enjoyed my time in Devon.
We are once again most grateful to Cambridgeshire Chair, Jane Robinson, for taking time to put this report on the Convention together for us.