MND marches across NZ attract thousands
By Nina Burton
Thousands of people across the country have turned out to a new event to raise money and awareness for motor neuron disease.
Every week six people are diagnosed with what's known as the "cruel silent killer".
Eight years ago Claire Reilly was working as a doctor in Melbourne, and she also had a law degree. Then at the age of 34 her life changed forever.
She was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, or MND.
"I can't swat a fly on my nose. I can't blow my nose. I can't hug someone. It affects every way you communicate," says Ms Reilly.
MND is a progressive disease that involves the degeneration of the nervous system and wasting of the muscles.
"They would call it locked-in syndrome; you're locked in your own body," says Ms Reilly.
She was given three years to live.
"So you rapidly go into an almost preparing-to-die-type mind-set. You do your wills; you do your letters. I was in a wheelchair within six months."
Today Ms Reilly and more than 700 others took part in the first ever Walk to D'Feet MND event in Auckland.
Similar events took place in five other cities across the country.
"We're looking to raise 50 percent to go to our research fund and the other 50 percent to go to people with MND their families and carers," says MND national manager Grant Diggle.
The Ice Bucket Challenge that recently flooded social media raised more than $115 million in the United States alone for the disease.
In New Zealand 300 people have motor neuron disease, or one in 15,000. Six people are diagnosed every week and six people die.
There's no known cure and the numbers have doubled in the past 10 years.
MND can affect adults of any age but most of those diagnosed are over 40.
And while the disease may have taken control of Ms Reilly's body, it hasn't taken control of her mind.