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Swimming for a Cause

Swimming for a Cause
Meet the man overcoming physical odds swimming across the Auckland Harbour in April 2019.

Sixteen years ago, Mark Taylor, now 46, was diagnosed with a degenerative disease called Neuro Sarcoidosis, which caused him to lose his eyesight, the use of both of his legs, and the strength in his right arm. This neurological disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system, and in rare cases like Mr. Taylor’s, affects the brain and spinal cord. In lieu of all these obstacles Taylor faces daily however, he is going to swim in the 2019 Auckland Harbour Crossing on Saturday 6 April, as a fundraising event for neurological research.

“It would be great to assist in the learning of neurological diseases and hopefully to prevent others from suffering disabilities,” says Taylor, on his Give-A-Little page. Taylor has raised over $94,000 for the advancement of neurological research, which will be donated to the Neurological Foundation. Mark’s original goal was to raise $100,000 before the swim in April, but he has now set the goal even higher, with an aim to reach $150,000.

In February of 2003, at the age of 29, Mark noticed his first symptom of Neuro Sarcoidosis while chopping wood with his brother. He went to rub sweat out of his right eye and noticed he couldn’t see out of his left. He waited until the following morning to see if it would clear up but unfortunately, it didn’t, instead, the pain he had been feeling for months behind his eyes had got worse.

After being sent to the Auckland Hospital and running through a series of tests, the consultants diagnosed him with Optic Neuritis, swelling of the optic nerve which is a common symptom in Multiple Sclerosis. Within eight months of being diagnosed with Optic Neuritis, Mark had suffered eight more attacks like the one in February, and in October of that year, he completely lost the sight in his left eye. His health started to deteriorate more after that, three years after he lost the sight in his left eye, he lost sight in his right; then three years later, at the age of 35, he became completely paralyzed and was admitted to a rehabilitation facility where he needed to learn to walk again. It wasn’t until six years after his initial visit to the Auckland Hospital that Taylor was officially diagnosed with a rare form of Neuro Sarcoidosis that affects 1 in 80 million people that have the disease.

For Taylor the ‘Swim the Bridge’ event is more than just a personal challenge, it is the chance to support the Foundation that funded the research into the medication that is currently allowing him to complete this challenge. Taylor says when he was first diagnosed, "the medication [he] is currently on wasn’t even thought of yet" and looking back, Taylor shares, "without the medication, my story would be a very different one than the one we see today".

Surprisingly, the one thing Taylor mentions that is the most daunting thing about the swim is not the fact he cannot see or the fact he is partially paralyzed, but that it is so isolating. “There is so much noise [out in the ocean] that you lose your hearing” Taylor mentions, which is completely isolating to him as he relies heavily on his hearing due to his blindness. But, this doesn’t deter him from completing the swim. Along with the help of two support swimmers, his brother-in-law and his eldest daughters, Taylor is determined to complete this challenge he has given himself.

The ‘Swim the Bridge’ event will be the first time ever people can swim under the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. Two distances are offered for the swim: the 1km that starts from Northcote Point, and the 2km double-crossing distance starting at the city side at Harbour Bridge Park.

If you would like to support Mark Taylor in his fundraising journey please visit, givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/dans-le-noir to donate. Taylor only has $6,000 more to go to reach his original goal of $100,000 in donations, and with your help, we can help him reach his new target of $150,000.

Since its inception, the Neurological Foundation has been able to fund world-class New Zealand scientists and clinicians to conduct research and further education, leading to many ground-breaking discoveries in their continued search for treatments and cures for the 1,100+ neurological disorders affecting 1 in 5 New Zealanders over their lifetime.

We are supported by members and supporters who have enabled the Foundation to fund over 150 grants in the last 5 years, providing over $11 million dollars towards neurological research.

** ENDS **

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