Stan liv­ing pos­i­tively with MND

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

We all have our prob­lems, some se­ri­ous enough to rightly ache and com­plain about, while oth­ers have belly­aches so triv­ial that the for­mer puts the lat­ter to shame.

Stan Wat­son is 62 and has MND – mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease – a de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness that over time af­fects a per­son’s abil­ity to speak, walk, swal­low and breathe.

It is in­cur­able. Life ex­pectancy af­ter di­ag­no­sis ranges from any­where be­tween three to maybe 10 years… for the ‘lucky’ ones.

Mr Wat­son, a vet­eran run­ner of 38 years, 20 of those with Stawell Ama­teur Ath­letic Club, is now re­liant on – if not con­fined to – a wheel­chair.

But it is wrong to say that he ‘suf­fers’ from the rav­ages of the dis­ease that af­flicts 2000 Aus­tralians.

It is more ac­cu­rate to say that he en­dures MND, even if the myr­iad of frus­tra­tions con­spire to crack the shell of re­sis­tance around him.

“It might seem odd,” he said with a res­o­lute grin, “that the ma­jor frus­tra­tion is be­ing un­able to ride my 1950 BSA Ban­tam mo­tor­cy­cle.

“That was a 30-year restora­tion project and a real labour of love.

“It was heart-break­ing when I rode that bike for the last time.

“I kept muck­ing up the gear changes. I lacked the strength to com­press the clutch, let alone the brakes.”

Within nine months, his abil­ity to drive went the same way as his abil­ity to ride.

“While try­ing to steer through round­abouts, it seemed like the power steer­ing had failed,” he said.

“Three days later, my foot went to sleep on the ac­cel­er­a­tor while re­vers­ing into the garage.

“That scared the liv­ing crap out of me. Had it hap­pened any­where else, the dam­age could have been very much worse.”

Sus­pi­cious

Mr Wat­son was di­ag­nosed with MND on Au­gust 26, 2016, but it be­gan much ear­lier, with just a sus­pi­cion that some­thing was wrong.

“House­hold chores like pol­ish­ing floors, vac­u­um­ing, mow­ing the lawns or trim­ming a rose vine were leav­ing me breath­less,” he said.

“By the end of 2015, I strug­gled to hang out the wash­ing.

“I tried to help my son assem­ble a cot for my grand­son and even that caused me grief. I couldn’t man­age a sin­gle push-up.”

When he could not cut his own toe­nails he blamed three sets of su­per­mar­ket cut­ters for be­ing blunt.

The crunch came when, hav­ing watched his wife Karen slave for hours over a hot crock­pot of soup, he dropped the lot as he was about to load it into a car.

A more hope­ful di­ag­no­sis of pinched nerves in his neck was dis­missed be­fore the de­ci­sion-mak­ers – the neu­rol­o­gists – took the guess­work away.

“It was the shock no­body ever wants,” Mr Wat­son said.

“But there was no doom or gloom, no why me? It wasn’t as if I was given only three months, or six months to live.

“To this day I al­ways think that there’s some­one worse off than me.”

The big re­gret, not be­ing able to cud­dle and play with his grand­son as he would like, far out­weighs the nig­gling frus­tra­tion of an itch that he can­not quite reach to scratch.

Re­search

Re­cently, Mr Wat­son do­nated blood sam­ples and had a skin biopsy, en­abling re­search teams at a Caulfield clinic, Cal­vary Health Care Beth­le­hem, to con­tinue their work to find a cure.

He might not have the pro­file of AFL leg­end Neale Dani­her, who was di­ag­nosed with MND in 2013 and has since ded­i­cated his life to cam­paign­ing to fund re­search into the dis­ease, but Mr Wat­son is an am­bas­sador nonethe­less.

He and his youngest son proudly share a Fight MND tat­too.

“I have a daily re­minder on my fore­arm never to give up,” Mr Wat­son said.

“I’m for­tu­nate that I have Karen, my wife of 37 years, who is the rock I cling to. She dresses and show­ers me.

“She is here, there and ev­ery­where for me.

“MND is a killer that can take you quickly or slowly. I’m get­ting on with life as best I can and think of my­self as one of the lucky ones.”

• As part of the re­cent Big Freeze 4 MND cam­paign, Mr Wat­son ral­lied with mem­bers and friends of Stawell Ama­teur Ath­letic Club to raise $2000 to­wards the cause.

FIGHT­ING MND: Stan Wat­son, sur­rounded by Stawell Ama­teur Ath­letic Club mem­bers and friends, is be­hind the Big Freeze for MND cam­paign, which raises money to find a treat­ment and cure for mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease. Mr Wat­son was di­ag­nosed with MND in 2016.

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