Joost van der Westhuizen, the former Springbok captain is reeling from the news that he only has up to five years left to live after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
The 40-year-old rugby international was given the earth-shattering diagnosis after a visit to a neuromuscular specialist in America where it was confirmed he is suffering from amyotropic lateral sclerosis [ALS], a fairly common form of motor neuron disease.
Van der Westhuizen’s agent, Bridget Van Oerle made the news that the father-of-two had ALS public today and released a press statement asking for privacy at this difficult time.
‘He is obviously very shocked and upset to have heard the news.
‘On the surface of it, it is a bleak outlook and he is now spending some time at home with his children.
‘Joost is devastated and has asked to be left alone so he can collect his thoughts.’
Doctor Jody Pearl, van der Westhuizen’s South Africa based physician also confirmed that her patient was suffering with motor neuron disease after liaising with Erik Piori, the Cleveland, Ohio based neurologist.
‘Dr Pioro confirmed that Joost does indeed suffer from ALS, which gives him a 80 per cent chance to live between two and five years,’ she told NEWS24‘s website.
A few months ago it was suspected that Van der Westhuizen, a now retired scrum half had been struck down with MND and this official diagnosis confirms those early fears.
Motor Neuron Disease is a debilitating group of diseases which degenerate the cells responsible for muscle control meaning that over time he will suffer muscular atrophy and be unable to move.
Other symptoms include paralysis and spasms which are caused by motor neurons in the brain and spinal column breaking down making them unable to relay vital electrical impulses.
One of the most famous people of the modern day to suffer with motor neuron disease is Stephen Hawking, the highly respected astro-physicist.
Joost van der Westhuizen lives in Johannesburg with his two children after recently separating from his wife .
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