Bridge shines for MS Waikato

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE - GARY FAR­ROW

Vivid blue and pur­ple lights have adorned the length of the Hamil­ton’s An­zac Pa­rade Bridge.

The colour­ful dis­play is part of an agree­ment be­tween Hamil­ton City Coun­cil and char­i­ta­ble trust MS Waikato to raise aware­ness of Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease in the com­mu­nity.

Hunt­ing­ton’s is a rare hered­i­tary neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion which im­pacts around one in 10,000 peo­ple, along with their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.

MS Waikato pro­vided sup­port to those af­fected by mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis as well as Hunt­ing­ton’s.

Client ser­vice co-or­di­na­tor Tracey Larsen said while ev­ery­one has the Hunt­ing­ton’s gene, it was when a mutation oc­curred that they ex­pe­ri­enced symp­toms of the dis­ease.

‘‘Lo­cally in the Waikato we have 31 fam­i­lies un­der our care, but that’s prob­a­bly not a true re­flec­tion of how many peo­ple are ac­tu­ally im­pacted,’’ Larsen said.

‘‘There’s prob­a­bly more fam­i­lies out there who have not sought sup­port from us.’’

Ev­ery child of a par­ent af­fected by the gene mutation has a 50 per cent chance of in­her­it­ing the dis­ease.

As a re­sult, the con­di­tion can con­tinue through mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily.

The dis­ease can af­fect phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional func­tion­ing, lead­ing to com­pli- cations around life de­ci­sions in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, ca­reer, mar­riage, fam­ily plan­ning, fi­nan­cial and le­gal is­sues, and ul­ti­mately in­de­pen­dence.

‘‘It can be dev­as­tat­ing to sud­denly learn of hav­ing the con­di­tion,’’ Larsen said.

‘‘Be­ing di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion can have very wide­spread im­pacts.’’

Of the 31 clients with Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease that MS Waikato sup­ported, many of them have chil­dren, who could ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms them­selves in the fu­ture.

The con­di­tion varies in sever­ity, de­pend­ing on how much the gene has mu­tated.

The fur­ther it has mu­tated, the ear­lier in life symp­toms may ap­pear for those who carry the gene.

The blue lights on the An­zac Pa­rade Bridge rep­re­sented adult suf­fer­ers, with the pur­ple lights stand­ing for the ex­ceed­ingly rare ju­ve­nile cases who ex­pe­ri­ence Hunt­ing­ton’s in their teens.

‘‘We’re the only agency in the Waikato that sup­ports Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease pa­tients,’’ Larsen said.

‘‘I guess you could liken us to be­ing the link be­tween fam­i­lies and any ser­vices that are avail­able in the com­mu­nity.’’

MS Waikato said would it al­ways wel­come do­na­tions that would go di­rectly to­wards sup­port­ing fam­i­lies with ser­vices such as home vis­its, pro­vid­ing use­ful in­for­ma­tion, re­fer­rals and ad­vo­cacy.

An­zac Pa­rade Bridge lit in blue and pink lights to raise aware­ness of Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease.

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