NZ dads brave bungy jump

Auckland City Harbour News - - SITUATIONS VACANT - BROOKE BATH

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.

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