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Teacher to jump off Goodwill Bridge for father-in-law with motor neurone disease

Patrick Wedge and Matt Messer

Full of faith: Patrick Wedge, right, and his son-in-law Matt Messer. Mr Wedge has motor neurone disease, a terminal neurodegenerative illness that has no cure and no treatment. Photo: Emilie Ng

PATRICK Wedge crossed the finish line at two major world marathons with no troubles, but now he can’t even cross the room without feeling “exhausted”.

The 69-year-old Geebung parishioner has motor neurone disease, a terminal neurodegenerative illness that has no cure and no treatment.

The disease is weakening Mr Wedge’s muscles, as neurons responsible for the muscles that allow him to move, swallow, speak and breath, degenerate and die.

Despite competing in  two marathons in Paris and on the Gold Coast, Mr Wedge is now confined to his house as he watches his legs “wasting away”.

Even speaking for more than 40 minutes will make him “wilt”.

“We use a lot of energy to accomplish a feat,” Mr Wedge said.

“Like even going from here, getting into the wheelchair and going to another room, that makes me exhausted.

“And the other thing is nausea, where I feel not well all the time which then interferes with my appetite which means I lose weight.

“My legs are wasting away as the muscle wastes away as well.”

Mr Wedge, who has been a member of Opus Dei since 1996, said he first noticed his strength declining in late 2014.

“I used to mow the lawn and found that I was struggling just to mow the lawn,” Mr Wedge said.

“Our house has got a slope and I used to push the mower up there, I’d been doing it for years, and couldn’t understand because there was nothing wrong with me.”

Several x-rays and MRI scans found nothing wrong with Mr Wedge, but a visit to the neurologist on February 12, 2016, confirmed the grandfather of five was suffering from MND.

“Mine started off in the lower part of my body and my left leg was the main one which was getting weaker and weaker,” Mr Wedge said.

“The muscles, the neurons connecting the muscles don’t fire and don’t work as well.”

Mr Wedge said he had no energy to leave the house, and relied on the spiritual direction of local priests, including Opus Dei priest Fr Peter Fitzsimons, and the companionship of his wife, two children and their family.

“Father (Fitzsimons) comes out to see me, I get the little kids when they come over here to say a prayer with me – all those things help I think,” Mr Wedge said.

Following his diagnosis, Mr Wedge retired as a mediator to spend whatever time he had left with his family, including son-in-law Matthew Messer, who is watching his second family member fight MND.

“Pat’s actually the second person in my family who has suffered from MND; my grandmother was diagnosed when I was in Year 10,” Mr Messer said.

“Because of the nature of it, it’s just a progression and it’s more or less a waiting game, just to let it take its effect as it runs its course.”

While there is no cure for MND yet, Mr Messer, who is a father of two girls, is hoping to fund research to find a treatment for his father-in-law’s disease.

Mr Messer is preparing to jump off the Goodwill Bridge and swing across the Brisbane river next year in a charity event for the MND and Me Foundation, which helps support research to find a cure for the disease.

The event popped up in Mr Wedge’s emails and he immediately thought of his thrill-seeking son-in-law.

“And I thought immediately of Matthew, that’ll be a good thing for a young guy like him to go –  a good clean bit of fun,” Mr Wedge said.

Mr Messer is hoping to raise $2000 to put towards a cure for MND.

“I’ve done skydiving before, in Tasmania out at Scottsdale there’s the tree course up in the tree, and at the end of that there’s a 150m flying fox, I’ve done that before but I haven’t actually jumped off a bridge before,” Mr Messer said.

The jump is scheduled for early next year.

There is no way of knowing if Mr Wedge will still be alive to watch his son-in-law take the extraordinary leap for his family member.

A devout Catholic and former daily Mass-goer, Mr Wedge said his diagnosis had given him more time to pray and ponder on the meaning of life.

“I’m not bitter, I’m not cranky, I don’t, at the moment at least, feel woe is me,” Mr Wedge said.

“I don’t mind talking about dying because that’s a fact and it could happen tonight, it could happen to any of us tonight, but it’s more likely to happen to me tonight.

“I’m apprehensive, is the word that I’d use, about what is going to happen when it’s going to happen, but I’ve got a confidence, without being self-assured – you can always fall as in a marathon before you cross the line.

“But please God that won’t happen to me.

“All that I know is I’m grateful that I am Catholic, and our belief in the mercy of God, that, we’re not worth anything really, it’s only by his mercy that we’ll get to heaven – just knowing that, that is a big comfort, that hopefully I’ll be in the right frame of mind when it happens.”

Everyday in Australia, two people are diagnosed with MND and another two people die from the disease.

To donate to Matt Messerís jump off the Goodwill Bridge, visit the official donation page.

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