By Casey Neill
EMERALD woman Meike Hammond watched her husband of 20 years become trapped in his own body in a slow and frustrating death.
She’s now sharing her heartache during Motor Neurone Disease Week, 2 to 8 May, in a bid to improve support for people with disabilities.
Peter Hammond died from motor neurone disease (MND) two years ago, aged 78.
“It’s a terrible disease because the body is just deteriorating,” Mrs Hammond said.
“When my husband was diagnosed his speech was going, his breathing was going.”
“He couldn’t swallow any more and slowly his hands were going.”
“It’s your whole body just wasting away – the trouble is that the brain is still working.”
MND is a rapidly progressive, terminal neurological disease. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is 27 months. There is no cure.
Mr Hammond was an artist.
“He loved to do his artwork and things like that and he couldn’t do any of it any more,” Mrs Hammond said.
“So he was just sitting and wasting away really.”
Mr Hammond’s speech became slurred in 2007. He visited his GP and was told he’d had a mild stroke. He sought a second opinion and was eventually referred to a neurologist.
“That guy, the moment he heard Peter talk, said ‘I’m sorry to say but it looks like you have motor neurone disease’,” Mrs Hammond said.
“We were devastated. We cried a bit together, because there’s just no future for you.”
“It just goes downhill and you don’t know how fast it goes.”
Mrs Hammond immediately quit her job to become her husband’s carer.
She has now joined MND Australia, the peak body representing people with the disease, to call for improved financial support for people with disabilities.
A National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) would be a new national safety net similar to Medicare for anyone with a disability.
MND Australia president Ralph Warren said the scheme was critical for people diagnosed with the disease.
“The rapid progression of MND means rapidly changing support needs,” he said.
“People diagnosed with MND increasingly require assistance with basic daily living, such as mobility, communication, feeding and breathing.”
“We urgently need to understand the causes and find a cure but in the meantime we need a rapid response to case needs to help people with MND live as well as possible for as long as possible.”
Motor neurone disease affects about 1400 people across Australia and takes the life of more than 10 Australians every week.
MND Australia urged people to write to their local MP about a NDIS.
Readers can donate funds to MND Australia by visiting www.mndaust.asn.au, calling 1800 777 175 or buying a badge on Blue Cornflower Day, Friday 7 May.
By Casey Neill