Dr Justin Yerbury is the ultimate freedom fighter.
His weapons of choice are molecular microscopes and knowledge.
His sworn enemy is motor neurone disease or MND.
While he fights to find a cure for the disease, he is fighting his own battle with the disease himself.
The cruel disease has already claimed the lives of his mother, one of his sisters and other family members.
Those loses have steeled Dr Yerbury for the fight to find the cure.
MND slowly strangles the life out of sufferer, progressively robbing them of the ability to use their limbs, speak, swallow and breath, all while the person’s mind and senses remain intact.
Sufferers become prisoners inside their own bodies until the disease eventually wins.
Justin Yerbury was once a top local athlete, a former player with the Illawarra Hawks National Basketball League side.
Yet he gave that all away to dedicate his life to finding a cure, knowing his search would be unlikely to help him but it may help others down the track.
Speaking to the Illawarra Mercury last year, Dr Yerbury’s sister pointed to a childhood photo where her brother was dressed as a super hero.
“I always go back to that photo of us as children wearing dress-up, Justin as batman, because he is and has always been my superhero,” she said.
“MND is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. It takes everything from you, you’re left with your mind, you’re just in a shell. It’s devastating.
“Justin is still fighting each day, he’s never giving up. I just can’t understand how he can lay there and do this and still have the passion and the fight and want to help others.”
On Tuesday night Dr Justin Yerbury was named as the 2019 Wollongong Citizen of the Year.
We don’t think there’s ever been a more deserving winner.
Dr Justin Yerbury ... a true freedom fighter.