Man with motor neurone disease tracks his decline with online auctions

David Seymour was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2017 and gradually lost his mobility.  Now he is selling items he can no longer use to raise awareness and funds for the disease.

Denise Piper / Stuff

David Seymour was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2017 and gradually lost his mobility. Now he is selling items he can no longer use to raise awareness and funds for the disease.

A fishing rod. A bicycle. Hiking shoes and running gear. A knife and a fork.

One by one, David Seymour sells items he can no longer use.

Seymour, 58, suffers from motor neuron disease and faces an uncertain future.

Motor neurone disease (MND) causes nerve cells to die. Without the nerves to activate them, the muscles that control a person’s ability to move, speak, swallow, and breathe gradually weaken and waste away, leading to a gradual loss of function.

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Starting Monday, the Whangārei man and former ACT party candidate is hosting a Trade Me auction to sell everyday items he no longer has the ability to use, to raise funds and awareness of the sickness.

Monday also marks Motor Neurone Disease Awareness Day.

More than 130 Kiwis are diagnosed with the disease each year, and around 400 people in New Zealand are living with MND at any one time.

Seymour is involved in a new campaign called David's Unusables, a series of Trademe auctions tracking

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Seymour is involved in a new campaign called David’s Unusables, a series of Trademe auctions tracking “digital decline” to raise awareness and funds for MND research.

New Zealand also has the highest MND death rate in the world.

The cause of MND is not known. There is no cure and no explanation for New Zealand’s high incidence rate.

In 2016, Seymour noticed he had a “drop foot” while walking.

When he started tripping on stairs in 2017, a neurologist confirmed he had MND.

Seymour was fit and healthy when he was diagnosed at 52. The progression of the disease was “confronted”.

The cause of the

Keith Srakocic/AP

The cause of the “relentless and debilitating” illness is not known. (File photo)

Within a few years, Seymour went from walking unaided to using a stick, then a frame, then a manual wheelchair to a motorized wheelchair.

By the end of 2020, his arms and hands “started to go away”, and he now needs help with everything from getting out of bed to brushing his teeth.

He is still able to speak and swallow without difficulty, but the force of his breathing decreases.

The disease is unpredictable: “You don’t know when or how it will collapse”.

Seymour wants to help New Zealanders understand what MND is and how difficult it can be, while helping to raise funds.

“You have to maintain a positive attitude… as difficult as that may be. I will enjoy what I can as long as my body allows me.

The auction, “David’s Unusables”, includes 33 items sold in a timeline reflecting the deterioration of the body due to MND.

One hundred percent of the funds raised from their sale will be donated to MND New Zealand, which supports people with MND and their carers and whānau through advocacy and research.

Emma Scotter, head of the Motor Neuron Disease Lab at the University of Auckland’s Center for Brain Research, said MND is “relentless and debilitating”.

Neuroscientist Emma Scotter is among those studying motor neurone disease in New Zealand.

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Neuroscientist Emma Scotter is among those studying motor neurone disease in New Zealand.

Scotter’s team is leading a nationwide study – partly funded by MND New Zealand – to find genetic patterns in Kiwis with MND and their families.

There are at least 30 genes that can cause MND, and some are more common than others.

Scotter said the campaign conveys such an important and tangible picture of living with MND.

The progressive deterioration of muscle function in MND is also a progressive deterioration of a lifestyle.

People with MND may wake up one day unable to do anything they could do the day before and have to adapt, she said.

“It may be different from how they wanted to live, but many live well and meaningfully even as their disease progresses.”