Wollongong molecular biologist Dr Justin Yerbury has dedicated his career to finding a cure for motor neurone disease – and now he’s facing his own battle with the degenerative disorder.
Dr Yerbury, from the Illawarra Health and Medical Rersearch Institute, lost his mother Pauline, sister Sarah and other relatives to the disease – and continues to work despite his diagnosis two years ago.
However, according to an online fundraiser set up by his sister Naomi Cocksedge this week, he is now almost totally paralysed, requiring 24-hour care.
More than $27,000 was raised by almost 200 people in just one day of the gofundme campaign, which has a goal of $75,000 to purchase a wheelchair and a suitable vehicle for his needs as well as ongoing medical costs.
His family established the online fundraiser after Dr Yerbury’s application for a wheelchair under the National Disability Insurance Scheme was recently denied.
“Those of you that know Justin Yerbury know that he has dedicated his life to finding a cure for MND,” his sister states on the fundraising page.
“Those of you who dont know him. Let me just say he is awesome and needs your help.”
According to the MND Association about 2000 Australians – including almost 30 in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven – suffer from the disorder in which the nerve cells (neurones) controlling the muscles that enable us to move, speak, breathe and swallow begin to degenerate and die.
There is no effective treatment or cure and most people with MND die within three to five years of diagnosis.
“He is artificially ventilated with a ventilator to allow him to breathe,’’ Ms Cocksedge states.
“… Justin still works at Wollongong university and his commitment is beyond belief. Please help him achieve his goal of living with MND and working to find a cure.
“ … The devastation of a MND diagnosis is unexplainable. To know you will slowly be forced to live in a motionless body and not be able to eat, swallow or breathe. But please also consider the financial strain on top of the emotional pain.”
Last November Dr Yerbury was awarded the prestigious Betty Laidlaw MND Research Prize for his outstanding research. At the time he said he was honoured to be recognised for his research: “This prize will enable me to continue to look at how proteins lead to the death of the neuron”.