Hero athlete with a ventilator and unable to move completes TRIATHLON in a wheelchair
Sam Perkins was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 37 and told he probably wouldn’t see his 40th birthday, but his friends and family helped push him across a triathlon finish line
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On a ventilator and unable to move, the super fit Sam Perkins thought his athletic career was over.
But that was before 15 of his loyal friends and family members helped push him across a triathlon finish line in a wheelchair, showing Sam still had a big event to come.
He was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 37 and told he was unlikely to see his 40th birthday.
But three years later, he’s not only defied that prediction, he’s also completed his final race—and dubbed it his “One More Tri.”
In the 10 years prior to his diagnosis, Sam had competed in up to 40 triathlons, as well as numerous marathons and half marathons.
He told the Sunday People: “I couldn’t just give up, I wanted to keep racing as long as humanly possible – raising money and raising awareness of MND to hopefully save the lives of others after I was gone.”
And he describes the euphoric end of the race as “a dream come true”.
With the ventilator now keeping him breathing, Sam was deemed unsafe to tackle the swim and bike legs of this month’s Nottingham Outlaw Triathlon.
But he was thrilled to complete the 13.1-mile run with the help of Team SAM, named after his charity Stand Against MND. His performance helped raise nearly £12,000 to improve the lives of others with the disease.
Sam, from Nottingham, was diagnosed in 2019 after suffering from persistent shortness of breath and muscle tremors. It was concerned wife Emma, 39, who ended up having to ‘drag’ him for an inquest.
He had noticed something was amiss while watching his beloved Nottingham Forest FC with father Alan, 70, last November and couldn’t find the breath to celebrate a last-minute equaliser.
He was diagnosed with pneumonia and taken to the Queen’s Medical Center in Nottingham – where he collapsed and was taken to intensive care. It was then that he received the devastating news that he had MND.
Sam said: “I asked about the treatment options. The counselor paused and then explained that there was no treatment – the disease was incurable.
“It was about taking care of myself while my body slowly stopped working.”
MND is a degenerative neurological disease that affects motor neurons – nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control our ability to walk, speak, move and breathe.
Around 5,000 people in the UK are affected at any one time and half die within two years of becoming established. Sam and Emma had only married four years previously and were planning to start a family.
To help them deal with the diagnosis, they devised a plan to try to find a cure so that others could have a better chance in the future.
Sam said: “I suddenly thought about all the things I had planned for Emma, my beautiful wife who I loved more than ever – it was like having a door slammed in my face.
“Our charity has raised almost £100,000 to find a cure, as well as funds for the Nottinghamshire Hospice, which has supported us through thick and thin. I just feel so lucky to have had the life I had, to have known Emma and to create that legacy.”
Sam entered triathlon at 28 and realized that as a smoker and over 18 stone he was “killing himself slowly”.
He said: “I saw an ad for a local triathlon, signed up and started training. It was extremely tough because I was so overweight and out of shape.
“But every day I would put on my sneakers, saddle up, or slip into the pool because I knew I had to do something.
“I never wanted to be the fastest, but that was a challenge I had to overcome – if not for me then for Emma.”
Within a year he had lost six stone and signed up for countless endurance events. He said: “It felt like I was born again. Every day was incredible.”
He and Emma, a solicitor, have known each other for more than 30 years – they live on the same street, go to the same primary school and then both go to university in Sheffield.
They finally became an item 12 years ago after meeting at a pub near their childhood homes.
Emma said of Sam’s diagnosis: “After all the testing and months of weird symptoms, we had a pretty good idea of what it was
could be. We were heartbroken when it was confirmed.”
Sam’s decline has been rapid ever since. He quickly required 24-hour care, a ventilator to sleep, and became unable to feed or bathe himself.
He said: “I digitally stored my voice so that when I have to speak to a computer, I sound like myself, not Stephen Hawking.”
He still works one day a week as a business consultant and is building the charity – which runs group fundraisers and even has a charity beer, calendar and children’s books. Emma says crossing the finish line with Sam in his last triathlon was “a mixture of emotions – from excitement to great sadness that I would never see him cross that line again.”
Sam added: “I was a fit and healthy guy in my 30s, proof that MND can hit anyone. It can come in many forms – in my case it took my ability to breathe independently and then started to weaken my limbs and coordination.
“But I refuse to feel sorry for myself. I have to find something positive about it.
“I’ve made it through my 40th birthday and hopefully started something very exciting that others can continue. I really couldn’t ask for more.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/hero-athlete-ventilator-unable-move-27091269 Hero athlete with a ventilator and unable to move completes TRIATHLON in a wheelchair