'Help find cure for horrendous disease which took my son' - grieving mother's plea to Sheffield students

A grieving mother hopes an award launched in her son's memory will inspire Sheffield students to find a cure for the 'horrendous' disease which claimed his life.

Jody love of sunflowers inspired the design for the award
Jody love of sunflowers inspired the design for the award

Jody de Vos died in January, aged 38, just two-and-a-half years after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

His mother Jude Sellmeyer saw him gradually lose the ability to walk, speak and eat as the cruel condition ravaged his nervous system.

Artist Richard Heppenstall and Jude with the award created in her son's memory

In an attempt to prevent others enduring such anguish, and to honour the memory of her 'courageous', 'loving' and 'larger-than-life' son, she has created an award.

It will be presented to the student at the world-renowned Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), run by the University of Sheffield, who is responsible for the best research into the disease.

"It's a horrendous disease and I want this award to be a legacy to Jody, who showed so much courage, spirit and humour through it all," said Ms Sellmeyer, of Holmfirth, near Huddersfield.

"He was only young, like many of the students researching the disease, and I'm hoping his story will bring home to them that this is something which affects not just older people but also those in the prime of their lives.

Jody before being diagnosed with MND

"Hopefully, with their help, we can find a cure so nobody else has to live through this hell."

Jody, who worked in Australia as a travel consultant, bravely blogged about his battle with the disease, using his eyes to write after losing his ability to speak and type, and his heartbreaking story was featured in the Gay Times magazine.

The music lover and keen photographer returned to the UK to be cared for by his mother, who held his hand as he slipped away.

After his death, she travelled to Australia with Jody's sister Anouk to fulfil his dying wish to have his ashes returned to the country which had captured his heart.

Jude Sellmeyer with her son Jody de Vos

They joined his many friends there at a beach party in his memory, which she described as one of the most moving experiences of her life.

"Jody was the most loving son and an amazing and adventurous free spirit with a larger-than-life personality, who was loved by so many," she said.

Ms Sellmeyer commissioned Wakefield-based artist Jason Heppenstall to create the stunning artwork which will be presented on the anniversary of her son's death to the first recipient of the Jody de Vos MND Annual Research Award SITraN.

The design was inspired by Jody's love of sunflowers, which his mother would bring into his room each day when he became too ill to venture outside.

Jody loved Australia

Mr Heppenstall said: "It was pleasure and an honour to be given this commission. I wanted the sunflower and the little hummingbird coming off it to represent life and beauty. They're both things which mean a lot to Jude and meant a lot to her son."

Jude with friends of Jody's at his memorial beach party in Australia
Jude with Jody, who wrote a blog about living with MND
Artist Richard Heppenstall and Jude with the award created in her son's memory
Jody before being diagnosed with MND
Jude Sellmeyer with her son Jody de Vos
Jody loved Australia
Jude with friends of Jody's at his memorial beach party in Australia
Jude with Jody, who wrote a blog about living with MND