The Southland Times
Convoy of old bangers on a mission to Bluff
Former competitive cyclist Graham Walker is taking part in the annual Bangers to Bluff charity event to help raise awareness for a revolutionary drug.
The event is organised by Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay, in Auckland, and involves up to 20 cars, bought for less than $2000, being driven from Auckland to Bluff.
The organisation donates the proceeds of the event to different charities, but the majority has been given to Hope Works and Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand in the past four years.
Walker, from Taranaki, was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PMSS) eight years ago.
Clinical trials show PMSS patients will be reliant on wheelchairs within 12 years of diagnosis.
The diagnosis was hard for Walker, as exercise was an important part of his life.
‘‘One side of me doesn’t work very well anymore. My left hand and leg. I can no longer play the saxophone for the band I was a part of,’’ Walker said.
he was able to get access to the drug ocrelizumab. The drug can help patients with PMSS delay having to use a wheelchair by seven years.
‘‘This is the first drug in the world [to help] with my condition,’’ Walker said.
He was able to get access to the drug through a compassionate programme by pharmaceutical company Roche.
Pharmac funds ocrelizumab for patients with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS).
It was yet to give any funding for PMSS despite recognising it can help patients with the condition.
‘‘I’m only one of 20 out of 600 in New Zealand that has access to the drug,’’ Walker said.
Walker is the president of the Taranaki MS Society and a committee member of Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand.
This is Walker’s first time taking part in the Bangers to Bluff event.
Walker spent as much time as he could riding the journey on his bike while being followed by the MSNZ car.
He started the trip on April 6 and will be arriving with the rest of the participants in Bluff today.
From there, those talking part will head back to Invercargill to auction the 20 cars used in the event to raise funds.
The auction will be held at the Newfield Tavern at 4.30pm.
‘‘I’m only one of 20 out of 600 in New Zealand that has access to the drug.’’ Graham Walker