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