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Massey helps MS sufferer master mountains

Bachelor of Sport and Exercise student Arbie Hong is helping Tracey Hall, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, prepare for trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchi.

Two years ago, Tracey Hall was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Now, with the help of Massey staff members, Ms Hall is about to tackle her biggest challenge yet – trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.

In July, she received the inaugural Mastering Mountains Expedition Grant from the Mastering Mountains Charitable Trust, set up by Massey Bachelor of Arts alumni and MS sufferer Nick Allen.

Ms Hall says being awarded the grant was amazing. “I have always wanted to do this trek and never ever thought I would ever get there but now, the trip of a lifetime is a reality and I feel very privileged and overwhelmed that it’s going to happen.

“There is just something amazing about being in the mountains above the clouds and treelines … but to do this in another country, in such an amazing area with magical history, is something else!”

Ms Hall has relapsing remitting MS, which means severe fatigue. “All I want to do is sleep! The last relapse in February was a massive one. I lost all feeling in my right leg. I was also found to have massive deep vein thrombosis in that leg which sent blood clots to my lungs. I had major respiratory attacks and it was very touch and go for a few weeks as I had more than 12 clots move through my lungs. I had a scan recently, and five months after these clots formed they are still there, so it seems I’m still battling those monsters as well as the weakness that I’m trying very hard to overcome.”

The trek of a lifetime

Preparation is one of the hardest things, so Ms Hall is undergoing rehabilitation at Massey University’s exercise clinic in Palmerston North, doing respiratory training with a breathing restrictor and walking around the local hills any chance she gets.

“The Massey team have really been my saving grace. Arbie Hong has been training me since the end of March and I have improved leaps and bounds. I feel stronger, fitter, have next to no pain in my right leg and even just having that support from him over the phone when I’m asking advice has been fantastic. I truly believe that without the Massey team I would not be where I am today in preparation for my dream to come true.

Mr Hong is a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise student, majoring in exercise prescription and training. Massey has a strong association with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, who provide clients for training each year.  As part of the exercise prescription practicum, students are required to train three different clients. The students train clients at Massey’s Exercise Clinic on Monday and Wednesday mornings each week.

Dr Lynette Hodges, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, supervises Mr Hong, and says he has taken Ms Hall through fitness testing and has developed a training programme especially for her. “Each week Arbie and Tracey meet and he takes her through the training programme to ensure she’s meeting and achieving her goals. This provides an important learning platform for our students and provides clients with evidence-based training which they may not otherwise be able to access.”

Raising money for a good cause

This Saturday, Ms Hall will be walking from Woodville to Whariti peak (14 kilometres, with an altitude climb of 920 metres) to raise funds for MS Central Districts, as part of her training. She has set up a Givealittle page, and so far has raised more than $7000.

She says being diagnosed with MS is scary. “You don’t know when the next relapse is going to hit or what permanent disability you might be left with. This massive climb up the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu is a very big, steep climb that people without disabilities struggle with. I want to prove to myself and others that if you put your mind to something and work hard, anything is achievable!”

Ms Hall will continue training until she leaves for Peru in February 2019.

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