A man who lost his wife to Multiple System Atrophy is setting up a support group in Chippenham for those affected by the rare degenerative disease.

Pat and Michael Woodman grew up together in Slaughterford, near Biddestone, and shared 50 years of marriage before Pat fell ill in 2007.

Mr Woodman, 79, said: “It’s not always easy to find someone familiar with the illness. The nearest group to us was Exeter.”

His wife was first misdiagnosed after developing a tremor in her hand because of MSA’s rarity and the similarity of its symptoms to Parkinson’s disease. Over the next five years she found it more difficult to write or even work out simple sums.

Mr Woodman said: “It is an appalling illness to suffer from as it slowly destroys areas of the brain that control automatic functions, like the bladder and bowels, but the person is still fully conscious of what is going on and so feels ridiculed.”

Mrs Woodman was an area cashier for Kennet District Council before she retired.

The couple moved into retirement flats in Chippenham in 2011, nearer to their supportive four daughters Jacqueline, Rachel, Claire and Lesley.

Mrs Woodman had to go into Royal United Hospital in Bath in May 2012 after several falls caused by low blood pressure and bladder infection. Mr Woodman said despite episodes of fainting and ongoing hallucinations, she was desperate to go home and was transferred to Chippenham Hospital before returning home in August. It soon became clear she needed constant nursing care.

She died aged 76 at the Bupa Avon Court nursing home in Chippenham in October, with her husband at her side.

Mr Woodman said: “I feel that the best way to honour Pat’s memory is to raise awareness of MSA and to support people with MSA and their families.”

He hopes the new group will give invaluable support in Bath, Bristol, East Somerset and Wiltshire. The first meeting will be on April 19 in St Paul’s church hall on Malmesbury Road.

To join the group, email office@msatrust.org.uk