Met a hero today … not someone who can leap tall buildings in a single bound or is faster than a bullet. But, someone who stares death in the face … every day. Someone diagnosed with a degenerative and incurable neurological disorder eating away at his nervous system.

Neurologists made it clear … the best to do is go home, not tax yourself, and told Paul (*not his real name*) to spend as much time as possible over the next 3 to 6 months with family and friends.

However, fate underestimated Paul. Struggling to speak, mouthing the words with obvious effort, Paul started to tell his story – as a “test case” for medical students.

From the moment Paul walked into the room, grabbed my hand and looked me straight in the eye, I had a sense that someone extraordinary has crossed my life path. About 1.8m tall, walking with the help of a cane, Paul’s wicked sense of humour softened the mood in the room.

Paul said that as a retired salesman, he went home with the message of “taking it slow” on his mind, and the added risk factor of high cholesterol. “But, just sitting around is not for me. I decided that I’ll start to lose weight, while I’m waiting for death. Besides, I want to look good in my coffin,” he said with a throatylaugh.

Amid the jokes and wit, Paul’s story of courage and endurance emerges. “Despite what the doctors told me – not to exercise, I now go to the gym and spend about 1 to 2 hours doing various exercises. So, far I’m going strong and some of the symptoms are already there.

Some days are better than others. My family is very supportive. (Eyes tearing) It’s tough on my kids and wife but they’re wonderful. I’ve also got two lovely dogs that follow me everywhere. They expect me to take them for walks every day. When it time to go for a walk, they pester me until I do,” he explained.

“One of the main reasons for telling my story is to tell people not to give up on life – to life your life to the fullest, no matter what,” said Paul. “Follow your heart in what you want to achieve in life and go for it!”

Listening to Paul’s story, a lump was stuck in my throat and my eyes were misting up behind the video camera. Sensing my mood, Paul let rip with some of his risqué jokes and sharp wit which soon had me in stitches.

So, Paul this one’s for you (and the other heroes out there) … compliments of  Mariah Carey

"And then a hero comes along,
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fear aside
'Cause you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong ...
And you'll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you."
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webmaster@dgscom.co.za

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