Imagine jumping onto your bike and preparing to ride, but you can’t maintain your balance, your hands are uneven, and you have no control over your body. That’s what riding a bike feels like with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Cycling Paralympian, Carol Cooke AM, 54, Australia, has led a team of health experts, bike mechanics and people living with MS, in the design of a bike to raise awareness of the reality of living with MS.
The MS bike simulates and highlights the many physical difficulties and struggles that the 23,000 Aussies living with MS experience throughout their lives.
Advocacy group, MS Australia, describes the often debilitating neurological condition as a chronic disease disrupting nerve impulses within the human brain, spinal cord and optic nerves,1 while noting, no two cases of MS are ever the same.2
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Cooke explained how post- her MS diagnosis at the age of 36, many of her work colleagues failed to understand the physical demands of the disease.
“While I was employed full-time, I was working in logistics, and they expected you to put in long hours,” said Cooke.
“I would get to a point and say ‘I had to leave’, because I was so fatigued.
“We all look very good and we look healthy, but it’s the symptoms we deal with on a daily basis that people don’t get,” Cooke said.
The bicycle looks functional, just as many living with MS may appear. However, closer inspection reveals a misaligned frame made with heavy wheels, broken cogs causing the gears to unpredictably change, a low-skewed seat, and handle bars, which include ball bearings that cause pins and needles to stimulate tinnitus.
The aim of the initiative is to challenge, educate and offer people an insight into the daily challenges of those living with MS, in order to spread empathy and respect.
- MS Australia, What is MS?. Available at https://www.msaustralia.org.au/what-is-ms.
[Last Accessed February 12, 2016].
- MS Australia. Health & Wellbeing. Available at https://www.msaustralia.org.au/health-wellbeing/living-with-ms [Last Accessed February 12, 2016]