Nick Perkins, right, at home in Carterton with his wife Danielle and their three children, five-month-old Matilda, Lachie, 4, and Thomas, 6. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
For a while, the future was looking a bit shaky for the Perkins family.
Father-of-three Nick was 31 when in 2014 he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and told by medical professionals that he would be wheelchair-bound within 10 to 15 years if the disease continued to progress at the rate it was going.
With two young sons, Nick and his wife Danielle embarked on a fundraising journey to send the Carterton father to Singapore for stem cell treatment, in the hopes it would halt the debilitating disease.
Now, with the addition of a daughter, the couple say their family is complete and things are finally starting to pick up where they left off.
“I’m feeling amazing,” Nick said this week.
“Well — what’s the best way to put it — I’m feeling normal.
“I feel like I did three years ago, before MS, back to a normal life.”
Sitting at home in his lounge, with Danielle cradling five-month-old Matilda on the couch, Nick said his experiences over the last few years had given him a deeper appreciation “for other people, for life, for every moment”.
“My aim now is to live my best life possible . . . take every opportunity that we get.”
The best part of being in remission was again having the ability to keep up with sons, Thomas, 6, and Lachie, 4.
“And that was really the driving force behind getting the treatment,” Nick said.
“With three young kids in the mix, I didn’t want them to spend their entire young lives with me telling them I can’t do this or I can’t do that.”
The boys struggled to comprehend why their usually active father no longer had the energy to play with them, and found it hard to cope while Nick was half a world away receiving treatment.
In mid-2017, Nick spent three months in Singapore — undergoing triple-strength chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and then a rest and recovery period, during which a few life-threatening complications arose.
“The treatment is so intense that you get to a point where just every breath is hard work . . . but my recovery from there has just absolutely blown us away.”
The couple said the decision to pursue treatment overseas was not easy and would not have been possible had it not been for a whopping $170,000 raised through their givealittle campaign, the majority of which came from the Wairarapa community.
“I can’t even really quantify how amazing we found the support in the region, like just everyone got behind us and did everything they could to help us out.”
The couple said their life was rather public these days, with strangers stopping them in the street to ask how they were getting on.
“People are interested and it’s nice to be able to give a success story.”
The Perkins have set up Kicking MS Charitable Trust (wwwkickingms.nz), to which other MS sufferers who met the criteria can apply for financial help to get stem cell treatment, which is not available in New Zealand.
Danielle, 26, said it was about giving others the same opportunities that Nick had.
“I definitely feel better,” Nick said.
“I have all my energy back and I don’t have the fatigue or anything like that.”
His latest MRI showed the degenerative disease had not progressed any further.
But Nick is not out of the woods yet.
“They say it’s really two years until your immune system has really built itself back up properly.”
About a month after his return from Singapore, he eased back into his job as an IT technician.
The couple said their employees, Technology Solutions and Bell St Early Learning Centre, had been amazing.
Nick and Danielle said the words “thank you” had almost lost their meaning, and did not convey the gratitude they felt towards all who had donated and offered support throughout the family’s challenging time.
“But we’ve just got to keep saying it because what else can we do.”