Mates rally for bat­tler

Friends pre­pare to march for Team NZ di­rec­tor fight­ing mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease.

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - By Brit­tany Keogh

As his mates sailed bril­liantly to win the Amer­ica’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand di­rec­tor Greg Horton was fight­ing his own tough health bat­tle.

The 48-year-old fa­ther of three, a part­ner at Auck­land law firm Har­mos Horton Lusk, has bat­tled with mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease since Septem­ber 2015.

Al­though putting his shoes and socks on is a daily strug­gle as the de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion has af­fected his bal­ance, Horton was in Ber­muda cheer­ing on the team when they raced in July.

To­day about 500 peo­ple in­clud­ing 75 of his Emirates Team New Zealand mates will honour him by wear­ing or­ange T-shirts printed with Horton’s smil­ing face when they par­tic­i­pate in Walk 2 D’Feet MND events in Auck­land and Lon­don to fundraise for mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease re­search.

Team New Zealand skip­per Glenn Ashby has flown from Mel­bourne and the team’s chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer Kevin Shoe­bridge will also be there. Horton said he was over­whelmed. “I’m hum­bled. It’s go­ing to be full of emo­tion and in some ways quite chal­leng­ing but it’s go­ing to an in­cred­i­ble day and I can’t wait.”

His friends and fam­ily had helped since his di­ag­no­sis.

“You have a whole lot of un­der­stand­ing peo­ple around you be­cause some days my talk­ing’s not very good and other days it’s re­ally clear,” he said.

“There are lots of dark times when you can kind of crawl into a shell and feel like you have no pur­pose, or you have no mean­ing or you have no hope. You cer­tainly go through a phase where you think ‘my life has been stolen from me’.”

Mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease is in­cur­able. It dam­ages the ner­vous sys­tem, pre­vent­ing signals from the brain reach­ing the mus­cles. About 100 Ki­wis are di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease ev­ery year.

“It’s prob­a­bly the most de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­ease that peo­ple can get in terms of your body shuts down but your mind is to­tally unim­paired. Ev­ery­thing just gets a whole lot harder,” Horton said.

“I’m slowly los­ing my voice and ul­ti­mately at some point I’ll prob­a­bly lose my abil­ity to speak clearly and prop­erly.

“You can’t kick a soc­cer ball, you can’t go for a run, you can’t play beach cricket with the kids, you get knocked over by a small wave in the ocean.”

Horton tried not to let the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing his speech get him down and in­stead fo­cused on what he had to be thank­ful for — par­tic­u­larly his wife and chil­dren.

Shoe­bridge said he had been in­spired by Horton’s re­lent­less pos­i­tiv­ity. “I think ev­ery­one in this team, es­pe­cially my­self, we re­ally ad­mire his courage and his at­ti­tude to­wards ev­ery­thing.”

The team was thrilled to be able to sup­port the event.

Half the money raised would fund re­search projects, and the rest go to the Mo­tor Neu­ron Dis­ease As­so­ci­a­tion, a char­ity that sup­ports those with the dis­ease.

Greg Horton.

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