Jumping off a bridge is nothing compared with dealing with an often debilitating disease, Kaitaia GP and former New Zealander of the Year Lance O'Sullivan reckons.

And on Thursday that's just what the good doctor did, bungy jumping off Auckland Harbour Bridge to support the Freedom Appeal for Muscular Dystrophy New Zealand.

Dr O'Sullivan was one of five fathers of children with the condition who showed their support for the campaign by jumping off the bridge.

He said bungy jumping off a bridge takes guts - but so does dealing with an often debilitating disease.


Dr O'Sullivan's 7-year-old son, also named Lance, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Often referred to as DMD, it is a progressive disease that affects one in 3600 baby boys in New Zealand.

Symptoms include progressive muscle degeneration and weakness, and usually starts showing before the age of 6, but can also show in infancy.

"Lance requires help to get out of bed, get dressed, have a shower and get to school - all the things we took for granted with the other kids," Dr O'Sullivan said.

"I'm deeply committed to raising awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the work of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand."

Launching the start of the Freedom Appeal for Muscular Dystrophy New Zealand, the five fathers of the boys aged between 3 and 13 (one a father of two with the fatal disease) decided to take the leap of faith with AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand to pledge their support to the cause.

Dr O'Sullivan, the 2014 New Zealander of the Year, said the apprehension and anxiety about jumping off a bridge was nothing compared with living with a disease such as muscular dystrophy every day.

Typically, the first noticeable symptom is delay of motor milestones, including sitting and standing independently. There is a steady decline in muscle strength between the ages of 6 and 11 and, by the age of 10, braces may be required for walking. At age 12, most boys are using a wheelchair.

Muscular weakness and skeletal deformities frequently contribute to breathing disorders and few individuals with the disorder live beyond their 30s.


AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand managing director Henry van Asch said: "Committing to a bungy takes courage and guts - traits these dads and their boys have in bucket loads - and we're happy to help these guys have some extreme fun and raise awareness of muscular dystrophy at the same time."

To donate or find out more, go to www.mda.org.nz.