Dis­ease strikes Otago ath­lete


Last month Gavin Ma­son was one of the fastest fire­fight­ers in New Zealand to run to the top of the Auck­land Sky Tower, now he can barely walk 10 me­tres.

Otago mul­tisporter and Queen­stown Air­port Fire Res­cue fire­fighter Gavin Ma­son was di­ag­nosed with the rare au­toim­mune dis­ease Guil­lain-Barre syn­drome last week and is in Dunedin Hospi­tal.

‘‘I can walk - shuf­fle - for about 10 to 15 me­tres max, the rest is on the wheel­chair.’’

The dis­ease at­tacked the body and af­fected one in 100,000 peo­ple, he said.

‘‘It’s so ran­dom and so rare. It’s some­thing so in­dis­crim­i­na­tive that you are un­aware of un­til it af­fects you.’’

The first symp­tom he felt was ‘‘slight tin­gling’’ on the back of his legs. Two days later, his lower body strength re­duced heav­ily and he went to see a doc­tor.

Now he has lost about 80 per cent of the strength in his legs and un­der­taken five cour­ses of im­munoglob­u­lin blood treat­ment.

‘‘I don’t think it’s the cheap­est prod­uct out there but they [doc­tors] know it does work. It does not show in the blood tests and the only real mea­sure of suc­cess is when you get your strength back.’’

Some pa­tients are per­ma­nently paral­ysed by the syn­drome but Ma­son has been ad­vised his case is ‘‘mi­nor’’. He aims to be out of hospi­tal by next week and do­ing a re­hab pro­gramme in Dunedin.

‘‘Men­tally it’s a bloody flat tyre on the road bike and it’s a mat­ter of deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion.’’

Ma­son has com­peted in sev­eral en­durance dis­tance sports events including the Tour of South­land and Coast to Coast.

He was fourth in the Fire­fighter Sky Tower Stair Chal­lenge last month, run­ning 1100 stairs in un­der 10 min­utes while wear­ing a full kit and breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus weigh­ing up to 25 kilo­grams.

South­ern Lakes Mul­ti­sport Club cap­tain Dar­ren Clay said Ma­son’s di­ag­no­sis was a ‘‘big shock’’ to the com­mu­nity.

How­ever, ‘‘he [Ma­son] is re­ally fit so he will be all right.’’

Clay vis­ited Ma­son at the hospi­tal on Mon­day. ‘‘He is pretty good men­tally and phys­i­cally, he event went to Mc­Don­ald’s for break­fast.’’

Friends and family have cre­ated a Givealit­tle page to raise funds for his treat­ment.


Otago mul­ti­sport ath­lete and Queen­stown fire­fighter Gavin Ma­son is bat­tling the au­toim­mune dis­ease Guil­lain-Barre syn­drome.

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