RYAN WALKER’S STORY
NAC’s Colin Fletcher was privileged to be able to support the Ryan Walker Foundation by flying Ryan, Paula and their two beautiful daughters to Vilankulos, Mozambique, on the 29th September and back on 9th October. This was all made possible through the kindness of Peter Johnson, whose Beechcraft Bonanza A36 was used and J P Coppez a long-time friend of Ryan and family. We wish Ryan all the best going forward.
This is Ryan’s story.
Ryan Walker, farmer and ex-Sharks rugby player, recently celebrated his 40th birthday. You’re probably thinking, ‘no biggie’ right? But for Ryan, who suffers from Motor Neuron Disease (MND), turning 40 represented a major milestone. And for his family - wife, Paula and two girls Molly and Emmie - it was a reason to celebrate.
Having always excelled on the sports field, Ryan spent most of his 20s playing rugby all over South Africa, at club and provincial level as well as a couple of stints abroad, in Ireland and the UK. However, it was his heritage of farming that eventually drew him back to the family farm in Mooi River.
In April 2012, Ryan was working on the dairy farm when he became very ill. After three days, many blood tests and a lumbar puncture, he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and admitted to hospital, where he remained in quarantine, for 10 days. Ryan continued to feel very weak after being discharged, and began to experience twitching in his arms, clumsiness, loss of balance and noticed a wasting and weakness in his right hand. As an active person and sportsman, this was extremely frustrating and worrying for Ryan.
It was only in July 2013, following extensive blood tests, nerve tests, MRI and more lumbar punctures, that Ryan was diagnosed with the terminal disease, MND, and given a prognosis of two to five years. That was six years ago. As of October 2018, Ryan is still able to talk, walk, drive a vehicle and get through most days as a healthy person, although his decline is progressively noticeable.
MND, also known as ALS, is a degenerative disease that affects the nerve cells that control the muscles. It is characterized by progressive degeneration of the motor nerve cells is the brain that allow us to move around, speak, breathe and swallow. With no nerves to activate them, these muscles gradually weaken and waste. There is no known cure for the disease but, globally, medical teams continue to research and test treatments. Ryan has undergone most of the treatments, clinical and drug trials available.
The Ryan Walker Foundation was established to raise awareness about this devastating disease. Through the Foundation, Ryan hopes to share his experience of living with MND and, by undergoing experimental and alternative treatments, contribute to the MND/ALS community and help other sufferers as well as their families and friends, cope.