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.