Amazed by the kindness of strangers

ALL SMILES: West Launceston man John Wilson has lived with multiple sclerosis for 14 years. Picture: Phillip Biggs
ALL SMILES: West Launceston man John Wilson has lived with multiple sclerosis for 14 years. Picture: Phillip Biggs

John Wilson doesn’t talk much about the disease.

He was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis nearly 14 years ago.

The alarm was raised when one the ends of his fingers on one hand began to go numb.

It was the same way the disease started for his aunt.

The diagnosis came four days before he started a new job with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where he still works two days a week.

However, he is looking at the possibility of retirement in 2017.

He battles fatigue, struggles to walk further than five metres without assistance, has worsening optic neuritis in one eye, and is beginning to lose feeling in his left arm.

“It has just been a steady but slow decline over the last 14 years,” Mr Wilson said.

But he maintains a sunny disposition, and says he does not want MS to be his life.

“I don’t talk about it very much. I don’t want it to be all that I am,” he said.

Due to the continuing loss of motor skills in his left arm, Mr Wilson made the decision to invest in a powered wheelchair, with guidance from occupational therapist Sally Sauer.

With some gentle pushing from his family and friends, he sought help from online crowdfunding site GoFundMe to raise the difference between the $6000 grant from the government and the total price of the wheelchair.

“I’m not very good at asking for help,” Mr Wilson said.

“The chair will cost close to $20,000, and that’s not even an expensive one – some can cost close to $40,000.

“But it’s got everything I need.”

He set a target of $7000.

Six days later, he closed his campaign with a total of $8500.

“I am constantly surprised and amazed by people’s generosity, and the support of strangers,” he said.

The excess funds will go towards buying a set of solid tyres for travelling, a purchase spurred on by a nightmare visit to Sydney earlier this year, where he found himself with a flat tyre.

“It was just that awful, sinking feeling,” Mr Wilson said.

“That’s my legs.”

It is still not known exactly what causes MS.

There is no recognised cure for the disease.