Mildura Weekly : Friday May 8 2015 Vol 9 No 26
12 NEWS MILDURA WEEKLY FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2015 THE faded, well-worn scrap- book dates back to the 70’s, and is full of newspaper stories and photographs dedicated to Multiple Sclerosis suffer- ers, support groups and fund- raisers. Even back then, 40 years ago, scientists claimed to be on the verge of finding a cure for the central nervous system disease that gradually robs people of their co-ordination, mobility and thought process. Not much has changed. MS is still making headlines, new cases are being diag- nosed by the day, scientists are still working on the cause, and a cure, and sufferers and their families continue to be plagued by this insidious dis- ease. There are a few reasons for writing this story. I have friends with MS, and have wit- nessed first-hand thae terrible and debilitating effects of the disease, I once climbed the world’s smallest mountain, at Wycheproof, complete with 63kg bag of wheat, as a fund- raiser...and this week I re- newed acquaintances with one of the people I admire most, someone with a personal MS connection. Brian Heal- eyisoneof my heroes, not just because he helped get me though a gru- elling Kokoda Track walk in 2012, not only because of the raw emotion he displayed while recounting stories of our PNG heroes, not for sport- ing or business achievements, or his role as a mentor, but for the pride he shows in his wife Megan and their three children as they help with her daily fight against MS. while running a full-time business, AND continuing to lead MASP youth mentoring program par- ticipants on annual Kokoda treks. You have to witness how he treats the young trekkers, a mixture of the shy, troubled, withdrawn, rebellious and challenged, to appreciate the mentoring role that Brian plays before, during and after the trek. He’s an accomplished sportsman, surf lifesaver, high achiever in business and as tough as they come, but he speaks in awe of Megan’s feats and courage in dealing with, and raising awareness of MS, and is glowing in his praise for their children, Sydney, 15, Leilani, 13, and Finlay, 10. The kids have grown up knowing their Mum has MS, making sacrifices in their school, social and sporting lives accordingly, and in recent years devoting time to shoul- der more and more responsi- bility as their Megan’s condi- tion worsens. All three kids are registered carers, and share the house- hold duties of cooking, clean- ing, helping their Mum show- er and get dressed, and other household duties. MASP’s Kokoda Youth Mentoring program leader Ken Innes puts the Healey family on a pedestal, knows only too well what Brian and the kids do to help Megan, and as one way of acknowledging that, this week welcomed Brian and Sydney to a MASP-inspired “thank you Brian” fund-raiser in Mildura, with the aim of raising enough money so that Sydney can join her Dad, and the MASP group, on the 2015 Kokoda Track expedition. Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from that night, held at the Cider Tree on Tuesday, and attracting around 100 of the MASP mentors and men- tees who have shared the Ko- koda journey with Ken and Brian over the past eight years. The Megan Healey story has been, and continues to be, well documented, especially through social media. Megan was holding down a full-time job, was a wife, a keen tennis player, horse rider and adven- turer when her world started changing 16 years ago after be- ing diagnosed with a rapidly progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. The determined (then) 28-year-old took it on the chin, continuing her job as a hospital scientist in pathology, and later giving birth to three children. Megan suffered a se- vere deterioration in her con- dition in 2007, had to give up work, and within a few years was confined to a wheelchair, using specially-designed con- trols so she could drive the family car, running the kids to school and sporting commit- ments. She continued this ‘can- do’ attitude by running the family home, helped by Brian and the kids, continued raising awareness and fund-raising for MS, and in May, 2013, went a huge step (drive) further by driving a ride-on lawnmower 1000 kilometres from Mel- bourne to Sydney, an epic feat that raised around $40,000 for MS research. But within months of that adventure, Megan’s condition deteriorated to the stage where she could no longer drive, ride the mower...or more simple things like brushing her hair, putting on make-up, cook, and a hundred other things that we all take for granted. Writing on her blog, Meg- an accepts that she is running out of time. “A cure could be years away, and my decline is so rapid that my young family and I may not have time to wait,” she writes. “Soon I won’t even be able to feed myself.” And even though time is ticking away, Megan’s first thoughts are with her family, writing; My MS puts an enor- mous strain on the entire fam- ily. There’s also an additional financial strain. I yearn to give my hubby and the kids a break now and then so we can have quality time together.” Well, the Mildura trip for Brian and Sydney was a wel- come respite, with the pair shown the sights by their MASP hosts, before being guests of honour at the ‘pot and parmy’ night at the Cider Tree. MASP Kokoda trekkers have given more than enough to make sure Sydney is on this year’s trek, and MASP’s regu- lar trekking company Kokoda Spirit has chipped in with a generous donation as well. Back home, Megan is con- tinuing her fund-raising and MS awareness campaign, with a target of raising $10,000 this year. Her ‘Megan’s Big Bucket List’ project has seen the ad- venturer go on helicopter and jet ski rides, do a 2.5km ocean swim towed on a float by surf lifesavers, go hot-air balloon- ing, swim with sharks, do an ultralight flight, do a 1.3km tree-top ‘roller-coaster’ ride via zip-line, and host a fund- raising high tea. Brian and Megan say their family, friends, local commu- nity and well-wishers near and far have been incredibly sup- portive, and despite further deterioration of her condition, Megan remains optimistic on several fronts, adding more things to her ‘bucket list,’ re- fusing to give in to MS, and optimistic that a cure will be found. • FOOTNOTE: Readers can learn more about Megan and her amazing family by visiting www.facebook.com/ megansbigbucketlist and do- nations would be welcomed through www.kissgoodby- etoms.org/fundraisers/indi- viduals/megan-healey Multiple Sclerosis affects an estimated 23,000 Austra- lians, and costs the commu- nity around $600 million an- nually. We were writing about one of the world’s most mysterious, frustrating and debilitating diseases – Multiple Sclerosis – 40 years ago, and it’s still in the news. While sufferers, mainly women, fight the good fight, life goes on for affected families, and support groups. This is a story about... The long, hard road that is MS The long, hard road that is MS firstname.lastname@example.org By Alan Erskine FRIDAY People • KOKODA HERE I COME; Sydney Healey with Dad Brian, seated, in Mildura with MASP youth mentoring program’s Ken Innes, who is preparing for his eighth trek. INSET is MS sufferer, fund- raiser and adventurer Megan Healey, a 2013 shot of her epic mower ride from Melbourne to Sydney, and doing her ocean ‘swim,’ helped by life-savers from the family’s surf club.
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