Few embody courage, bravery and selflessness quite like firefighters.
But when East Maitland Rural Fire Service’s Ian Turnbull puts on his gear this weekend, he’ll tuck a faded photograph of his mother into his jacket pocket and draw strength from the courage she showed in her final fight against a terrible disease.
“When my mother was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2008 there were lots of unknowns,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Initially she was diagnosed with something else. Her speech started slurring, then swallowing became a struggle.
“We didn’t know what was coming next.”
Eventually she lost the ability to speak and communicate.
Multiple women in Mr Turnbull’s family have lived past 90. But, writing online, Mr Turnbull said MND robbed his mother of 30 years of life. When she died she was just 66.
“Anyone facing motor neurone disease needs courage,” he said.
Over the last few months Mr Turnbull has spent his downtime preparing to climb the staggering 1504 stairs in the Sydney Tower Eye, weighed down by 20kg of firefighting gear, to raise funds for research into the disease.
“Each day, two Australians die from MND and another two are diagnosed with it,” he said.
“Ninety per cent of patients die within three to five years of first experiencing symptoms.
“The disease currently has no known cause or cure. So research is urgently needed to help find some answers. MND does not just affect older people – you can get it at any age.”
Mr Turnbull said that while he had spent months preparing for the climb physically, it had taken him years to come to grips with the impact the disease had on his family.
“This will be as much an emotional effort as a physical one for me,” he said.
Mr Turnbull is being supported by Maitland gym, Snap Fitness, who will raffle a $600 fitness package.
Mr Turnbull’s climb will be a part of the Firefighters Climb for MND which, in partnership with Macquarie University, will see hundreds of climbers attempt to raise $500,000.
Mr Turnbull has raised more than $4000 of his $5000 goal.
Support him by making a donation through his page firefightersclimbformnd.everydayhero.com/au/IanTurnbull
Contact the gym on Facebook for more information.