Stories to be told – Richard

We continue sharing the amazing life stories of some of the residents at Yukana Private. In this article, we hear from Richard who chose Yukana as his home around 18 months ago. Richard has an amazing story of survival despite being told early in his life that he only had a few short months to live.

Growing up

Richard was born in Toowoomba in 1926, and grew up on his parents property in Greenmount. He was the second youngest of five children with two brothers and two sisters. He attended primary school in Greenmount until the age of 14, when he was needed on the family property. With many men away fighting in WWII, he was called on to assist his father with the harvest. ‘I was at school one day, and a farm labourer the next!’, Richard explains.

Yukana resident, Richard, in his younger days on the farm

In 1944, at the age of 18, the family sold their Greenmount property and purchased a property in Cecil Plains. Richard began working for his elderly neighbours while still assisting his father on the family property when required. It was at Cecil Plains that he met his future wife, Barbary. He remained there for 10 years before winning a property in Clermont, Central Queensland in a land ballot. He moved to Clermont, where he spent time farming cattle, sheep and grain. He married Barbary at Toowoomba’s St Luke’s Cathedral in 1958.

Yukana resident, Richard, on his wedding day

Thrown a curve ball

While living on the farm in Clermont, his left arm began to stop working and waste away. He was sent to specialists in Brisbane and was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND). After being given 3-6 months to live, Richard asked for a second opinion. He and his wife, Barbary, flew to Melbourne the very next day where he underwent further tests. Although several Doctors believed Richard did indeed have MND, one specialist disagreed. Dr Peter Ebeling fought for Richard, bringing Richard’s case history up to the Annual Neurology Convention in Adelaide in 1966.

Dr Ebeling organised for the Convention to work out a panel of three overseas specialists to review Richard’s case. Two were located in the US, one in Boston, one in New York and the third in England. Handing the list to Richard he informed him he was now on his own, there was nothing further Dr Ebeling could do. The rest was now up to Richard.

Around the world in 14 days

Richard contacted the three overseas specialists and bought a round the world plane ticket. His first stop was Boston. After a few days, Richard received a call from the Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Medical Centre.   Richard was asked to meet with him and to recall his entire life history, as far back as he could remember. After a long discussion, he informed Richard that he had known from the first moments of meeting him, he didn’t in fact have MND. His diagnosis was a very rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. Richard was advised to give up work immediately in order to preserve his muscles. He was told he needed to do this to avoid being completely disabled and confined to a wheelchair.

When the Neurosurgeon in New York discovered Richard’s diagnosis, he was very keen to meet him. He asked the Boston specialist to request Richard didn’t go home until they had the opportunity to meet. The Neurosurgeon had never seen anyone with Richard’s particular rare condition. Richard obliged, flying from Boston to New York to meet with the Neurosurgeon.

From New York, Richard flew to England to visit the third and final specialist in Newcastle on Tyne. On arrival, Richard asked a cab driver if he knew of a place to stay for a few days. He was taken to a B&B and clearly recalls meeting the gentleman who came out of the office. After clarifying what it was that Richard wanted, he grabbed him, giving him a big hug. Naturally, Richard was a bit taken aback at first until the man explained. He had been imprisoned in Changi along with a group of ‘Aussies’ during the war. The man stated he had only survived the experience due to the encouragement and support of the Australian soldiers. He hadn’t heard an Australian accent since that time. The man was very excited to hear it again. After visiting the English specialist, Richard flew home to Australia. He had been abroad for a fortnight.

A complete change of life

The trip had completely changed his life. It wasn’t too long after his return that the decision was made for Richard and Barbary to sell their home of 17 years at Clermont. Following the advice of the Boston Neurologist, Richard retired, moving to Toowoomba. He was 40 at the time.

Yukana resident, Richard, relaxing at home

Richard lived with Barbary until she passed away four years ago. He moved to Yukana at the age of 90 and is now 92. He has lived far beyond the expectations of many doctors, and is forever thankful that he met Dr Ebeling.

We are very grateful to Richard for sharing his amazing story and thankful he has chosen Yukana Private as his home.

We look forward to hearing more life stories from the residents at Yukana.

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