Making an icy splash for a terminal disease

One Christchurch man is making a splash to raise awareness of a terminal disease.

As part of international Motor Neurone Disease awareness month, Paul Barton decided to tackle an 'Ice Bath Challenge', swimming in the cold Avon River for 20 minutes on Monday, in a bid to raise awareness of the disease and all its challenges.

He's campaigning for MND to become a notifiable disease. That would help gather research information, which he hopes could eventually lead to a cure.

His wife Ally was diagnosed with the debilitating disease three years ago, at the age of just 34.  She is one of the youngest people in New Zealand with the condition.

"Because most of the people that have this illness are a little bit older, nobody's really getting out there and bothering people, making a point of highlighting all these things, Barton said.

"So I'm just trying to do a little bit in public, do something a little bit crazy".

Paul Barton and his wife Ally who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2021. PHOTO: GEOFF...
Paul Barton and his wife Ally who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2021. PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN

Barton said he chose the Avon River to highlight the links between agriculture/water quality and the incidence MND.

He said the disease is brutal, causing the body to shut down. There's currently no effective treatment and no known cure.

"At the moment, with MND nobody knows what the cause is. Most people live between two and five years after diagnosis, and I don't think that's good enough. New Zealand has one of the highest rates in the world of this illness".

The average life expectancy of someone with MND is between two to five years.

"Statistically she's (Ally) doing really well, other people aren't so fortunate. So I just need to do what I can. I need to be able to look myself in the mirror and know I'm doing everything I can".

Barton launched a petition last year, calling on the Minister of Health to designate Motor Neurone Disease a 'Notifiable Disease'.

He's preparing to argue his case before a Parliamentary select committee, once the petition is officially presented next week.

The petition can be signed by clicking on:

- By Geoff Sloan, made with the support of NZ On Air