THERE are many reasons why the world grew to love Muhammad Ali.
The great courage and dignity which he displayed in his battle with Parkinson’s disease was just one of them. There was perhaps no point in his lifetime when he was more loved and respected than the moment when he lit the Olympic flame at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, his hand visibly shaking as he took faltering steps with the torch.
None of us knows for sure how we would react when faced with the certainty of our own death and slow, terminal decline at the hands of such a cruel disease. Not until, God forbid, we find ourselves in the same boat.
That is what happened to Gordon Aikman when he was diagnosed with Motor Neruone Disease. If the way a person reacts, in such desperate circumstances, is the mark of them, then Gordon is a hero in the Ali mould. He may not have been blessed with Ali’s outstanding athletic skills or world-famous wit – although anyone who has heard him deliver a speech will know he has a way with words – but his bravery and compassion are of the same brand.
Gordon’s fundraising drive has been nothing short of incredible, but that is not all he has done. He has been a hugely powerful and articulate voice for change in the way that people with MND are treated in Scotland.
One result of what he has achieved is the Scottish Government’s creditable decision to start funding specialist MND nurses.
Another is the funding of far more world-class research being carried out into potential cures for the disease, at the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND at Edinburgh University. Elsewhere at the university, medical researchers are carrying out groundbreaking work on Parkinson’s disease.
We should be immensely proud of the work being carried out in the Capital to tackle these terrible illnesses.