Former rugby league player’s sad decline
ALL that a former rugby league player Paul Fisher wants is to be with his family as much as he can in the time he has left.
Fisher, 49, who played for Logan City Scorpions and the Cronulla Sharks in the 1990s is now wheelchair bound and suffering with motor neurone disease (MND).
Speaking to The Courier-Mail, his wife Narelle said she wouldn't wish the disease on anyone.
"It's a devastating disease. Nobody should have to live with it," she said.
Narelle, 48, said it all started when Paul was not able to click his fingers at the end of 2015.
He went to the doctor, who immediately suspected he had motor neurone disease and got him tested.
"Paul had gone by himself to the doctors because I was working and I kept asking 'how's it going' but he didn't know so much at that time because it was so close to Christmas," she said.
It was only two months later when she found out Paul had kept his MND a secret because he didn't want to ruin Christmas for his family.
"Paul kept it to himself as a secret over Christmas and didn't tell anybody. We also had a holiday planned in January and he kept it to himself because he didn't want to spoil the holiday.
Fighting back tears she said, "We were gutted. Devastated. I didn't actually find out until February 2016. He just broke down and told me and asked me to come to his neurologist appointment so they could explain everything to me."
While he's now fed through a tube in his stomach and finds it difficult to speak, Narelle said he's still mentally capable.
"Paul is a pretty strong fella and he's not letting MND letting him get in the way of living his life to the fullest," she said.
Asked how she'd describe her husband she said he's a "happy go lucky fella."
"He thinks he's a comedian," she added. "But honestly he's very caring and he'd do anything for anybody. We just love him so much."
Speaking about Paul's early rugby career, Narelle said he "lived and breathed rugby league."
Paul started his rugby league career at the age of nine when he played for south Woodridge.
After a few years playing for Logan City Scorpions he had a one-year stint playing for the London Crusaders in England before he was called to play for the Cronulla Sharks in 1994.
There he played alongside the likes of Andrew Ettinghausen, David Peachey, Mat Rogers and Geoff Bell, who was later a groomsman at Narelle and Paul's wedding in 1996.
The couple had their son Michael towards the end of his final season for the Sharks before they moved back to Queensland at the end of his contract in 1998. He played for a few more years at Logan City Scorpions before hanging up his boots at age 31.
Late last year, Paul's MND got worse and he was housebound and no longer capable of taking the stairs in their two-storey Logan home.
It was at that time that Paul and Narelle made the decision to live downstairs, which included a living area, bathroom and laundry, while their two sons Michael, 20, and Mathew, 17, lived upstairs.
Narelle said it would be a real lifestyle change for the family if Paul could come upstairs so they could be in communal spaces and reunited at meal times again.
Fisher's family and friends are now desperately fundraising to get an elevator in their two-storey home.
Family friend Cath Hopper has nominated Paul in Brumby's Gourmet Pie Guy competition which allows Australians to nominate an unsung hero in their community who is caring, charitable and generous.
Ms Hopper said it was a no-brainer to nominate Paul when she first came across the competition announcement.
"He's very thoughtful. Everyone else comes first for him. Despite everything, he's always smiling and we still joke around. He's just such a loveable guy," she said.
Ms Hopper, who visits Paul once a week, said she didn't know anyone more deserving and thought the $10,000 prize money would go straight to an elevator which would make a real difference in their lives.
Knowing that he's condition is deteriorating each day, an elevator would be special to reunite the family in the time they have left.
Narelle said, "It would just unite us all again and we won't be separated into different sections of the house. Having an internal lift for Paul would let him access his whole entire home rather than just letting him be isolated downstairs.
"Paul is a loving father and husband. And I'd do anything for him, he's my soulmate and love of my life."
MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE FACTS
- MND is a progressive, terminal neurological disease
- The disease can strike anyone
- There is no known cure and no effective treatment
- Each day in Australia two people die from MND
- Victims progressively lose the use of their limbs and ability to speak, swallow and breathe, while their mind and senses usually remain intact
- Average life expectancy is 2.5 years
- More than 2000 people have MND in Australia, of whom 60 per cent are male and 40 per cent are female*
*Source: Deloitte Access Economics report Economic Analysis of MND in Australia