GARY Durban was a fit and active soldier who spent 14 years serving his country.
In his spare time he enjoyed mountain biking on Salisbury Plain and running around after his two young children.
But his life changed forever in January last year when, aged just 33, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just three to six years to live.
He will be discharged from the army in two months’ time, when he and his wife Amanda, 40, and children Charlotte, eight, and Samuel, five, will have to find somewhere new to live and adjust to life as the disease progresses.
Mrs Durban said: “From somebody who was off mountain biking every weekend, keeping up army fitness levels and running around with the kids, to be told that you have got this disease and you are literally going to watch yourself waste away is devastating.
“But he has done so well. He is my rock. His strength has helped us all cope.”
Motor neurone disease affects the cells that control voluntary muscle activity including speaking, walking and swallowing, causing increasingly debilitating disability.
Mr Durban first noticed something was wrong when he couldn’t use his thumb to change the gears on his bike.
He underwent a battery of tests at Southampton General Hospital before he was given the devastating diagnosis.
The couple then faced explaining the illness to their children.
“At first we just told them that the doctors couldn’t fix Daddy’s hands,” said Mrs Durban. “But as time went on they asked more and more questions, then one tea time one of them asked ‘is Daddy going to die?’. We told them the truth because we’d always said that if they asked, we wouldn’t lie to them.”
As the disease worsens Mr Durban, a driver communication specialist based at Perham Down, will need specialist equipment to allow him as much quality of life as possible.
Although the NHS will provide some equipment, much of the cost will be borne by the family, so Mrs Durban is organising a series of fundraising events.
The first will be a family Valentine’s fun day this Saturday, being held from 2pm to 4.30pm at Perham Down Community Centre, Tidworth.
All are welcome at the event, which will include stalls, a raffle and a tombola. Adults go free and there is a £1 charge per child.
The main fundraising event this year be a coast to coast bike ride from Ilfracombe to Plymouth over Easter weekend.
Anyone who can donate prizes for the raffle or tombola for the family fun day or would like to take part in the bike ride can contact Mrs Durban at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make a donation to Gary’s Fundraising Frenzy go to gofundme.com/67b82k.