Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Battling MS Together; Couple Share the Degenerative Illness

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Battling MS Together; Couple Share the Degenerative Illness

Article excerpt



NICK Hawkins needs $90,000 to get to Russia for an experimental stem cell treatment that is his only shot at holding back the deadly affect of multiple sclerosis.

He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2016, one month before Tessa Herbert. When it seemed like the rest of their lives were just beginning, the diagnosis brought the Marcus Beach couple together.

The two were the same age, both sets of twins from the Coast with a handful of mutual friends, but met for the first time on a Facebook support group for people living with the degenerative disease.

"I remember seeing her post on the page and feeling exactly the same," Nick said.

They've become each other's biggest champions.

After a series of doctors appointments and MRI scans, the 24-year-old found out that he had been unknowingly living with the condition for a long time, and he had been ruling the symptoms down to general numbness and tingling.

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around how I didn't know something was so wrong," he said.

Nick has relapsed three times in the short time he has known Tessa. MRI imaging of his brain and spine show development far beyond what is expected for someone of his age.

He also has several T1 Hypointensities resembling an old lesion that has now died, and now counts as permanent brain damage.

"The hardest thing is the mental struggle," Nick said.

Not just in terms of effects on his brain, but also on his peace of mind.

"I used to surf and skate a lot, but I can't anymore because I have no balance," he said.

The surgery isn't an immediate fix, and requires seven days of chemotherapy and months of rehabilitation.

"Essentially you have to reboot the immune system from scratch," Tessa said.

There is no treatment available to reverse Nick or Tessa's conditions, but HSCT is designed to halt the progression of MS. The procedure is undergoing trials in Sydney, but requires patients to take medication Nick's body can't tolerate. …

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