NZ dads brave bungy jump
Five Kiwi dads, including GP Dr Lance O’Sullivan, have bungy jumped from the Auckland Harbour Bridge in support of sick children.
Each of the men’s sons suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition which tends to affect boys at a rate of around one in every 3600 births. People with muscular dystrophy lack the enzyme needed to repair their muscles and most children with the condition lose the ability to walk by age 12.
Few people with the condition live beyond their 30s.
The Northland doctor’s son, Lance Jr, was diagnosed with DMD in 2015 when he was 6 years old. Another father had two children who suffered the condition.
To raise awareness, O’Sullivan, Mike King, Paul Heke, Michael Schneider and Gary Vermeulen made the bungy jump to launch the Freedom Appeal for Muscular Dystrophy New Zealand.
Their boys who suffer DMD age from three years to 13 years.
The anxiety felt about jumping off a bridge was nothing compared to the experience of living with a condition like Muscular Dystrophy every day, O’Sullivan said.
‘‘Lance Jr requires help to get out of bed, get dressed, have a shower, get to school – all the things we took for granted with the other kids.
‘‘I’m deeply committed to raising awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the work of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand.
‘‘I like the idea of jumping off a bridge – and am excited to be doing it.’’
Typically, the first noticeable symptom of DMD is delay of motor milestones, including sitting and standing independently.
There is a steady decline in muscle strength between the ages of 6 and 11 years and, by the age of 10, braces may be required for walking, while at 12, most boys are using a wheelchair.
Muscular weakness and skeletal deformities frequently contribute to breathing disorders.
O’Sullivan opened the first pop-up virtual medical centre in New Zealand in July this year.
Instead of seeing a doctor face to face, patients from Patea sit in front of two iPads and a TV where they can talk directly to a doctor based in Kaitaia.
O’Sullivan was also in the spotlight after protesting an anti-vaccine movie.