Tragic love story: Couple with MS reach for last hope

Nicholas Hawkins and Tessa Herbert meet in a support group for multiple sclerosis. Nicholas condition has progressively gotten worse and Tessa has organised a crowdfunding to send him to Russia for treatment.
Nicholas Hawkins and Tessa Herbert meet in a support group for multiple sclerosis. Nicholas condition has progressively gotten worse and Tessa has organised a crowdfunding to send him to Russia for treatment. Patrick Woods

NICK Hawkins was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2016, one month before Tessa Herbert.

At a time where it seemed like the rest of their lives were just beginning, the shock diagnosis brought the couple together.

The two were the same age, both sets of twins from the Coast with a handful of mutual friends, but met for the first time on a Facebook support group for people living with the degenerative disease.

"I remember seeing her post on the page and feeling exactly the same," Nick said.

They've become each other's biggest champions.

After a series of doctor's appointments and MRI scans, the 24-year-old found out that he had been unknowingly living with the condition for a long time, and he had been ruling the symptoms down to general numbness and tingling.

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around how I didn't know something was so wrong," he said.

Nick has relapsed three times in the short time that he has known Tessa.

MRI imaging of his brain and spine show development far beyond what is expected for someone of his age.

He also has several T1 Hypointensities resembling an old lesion that has now died, and now has permanent brain damage.

"The hardest thing is the mental struggle," Nick said.

Not just in terms of effects on his brain, but also on his peace of mind.

"I used to surf and skate a lot, but I can't any more because I have no balance."

Now the pair are trying to raise $90,000 to get Nick to Russia for a Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation.

The surgery isn't an immediate fix, and requires seven days of chemotherapy, weeks of isolation and months of rehabilitation.

"Essentially you have to reboot the immune system from scratch," Tessa said.

There is no treatment available to reverse Nick or Tessa's conditions, but HSCT is designed to halt the progression of MS.

The procedure is currently undergoing trials in Sydney, but requires patients to take medication that Nick's body cannot tolerate.

The couple have even heard of instances where the quality of life has improved for people who have had the operation.

Tessa looked into the idea of getting HSCT but because of heart conditions she has developed, the surgery would be too dangerous.

Her main priority is selflessly getting Nick the treatment he needs.

"This is the only option at this point, there just can't be any more progression. I just want him to get better," she said.

You can donate to Nick and Tessa at the Go Fund Me page.

Living with multiple sclerosis

MS AUSTRALIA estimates that around 23,000 people in Australia are affected by multiple sclerosis, and over two million people around the world.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system that interferes with nerve impulses within the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

It is considered an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues.

Visible symptoms can often include difficulty walking, blurred vision, muscle weakness, fatigue and changes in memory.

Under the surface there is often difficulty with motor control, fatigue, neurological symptoms including vertigo, pins and needles, neuralgia and visual disturbances, continence problems including bladder inconti- nence and constipation and neuropsychological symptoms that can include memory loss, depression and cognitive difficulties.

However, no two cases of MS are the same.

Medication and treatment is available in Australia, although none has been proven to reverse effects.

Often the aim is to halt progression of the condition and further relapses.

If you or someone you know is struggling with MS, MS Queensland provides services and support here on the Sunshine Coast.

Contact to them via their website

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