Mother's heartbreaking speech as she honours Sheffield student leading fight against 'evil' disease which claimed her son

A Sheffield student has become the first winner of an award launched by a grieving mother to help find a cure for the 'evil' condition which killed her son.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 23 February, 2018, 09:56
Jude Sellmeyer and Theo Wing with the award, which was created in memory of her son Jody de Vos

Jody de Vos was just 38 when he died of motor neurone disease last January, less than three years after being diagnosed.

His mother Jude Sellmeyer is determined to prevent more families enduring the same heartbreak, by supporting young scientists in Sheffield in their search for a cure.

Jude with her son Jody before he was diagnosed with MND

She hopes the annual prize for the best research by students at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), run by the University of Sheffield, will bolster their determination to make the long-awaited breakthrough.

"Jody was the most courageous and brave young man, who throughout this vicious terminal illness showed such positive spirit for life and kept his massive sense of humour intact," she said.

Dr Tom Jenkins with award winner Theo Wing and the award's founder Jude Sellmeyer

"Jody was a young man in the prime of his life who was struck down by this evil disease.

"It's easy for researchers to get so caught up in the minutiae of their work that they lose sight of the human picture.

"Hopefully, hearing about Jody's experience will make these students even more determined to play their part in finding a cure."

A photo of Jody was displayed as the presentation was made to honour his memory and illustrate the human face of what students are trying to achieve

Jody was living in Australia when he was diagnosed with MND but later returned to the UK where his mother became his full-time carer at her home in Holmfirth, Huddersfield.

Little is known about what causes the condition, which attacks the nervous system, and there is still no cure and no treatment for the disease - making diagnosis a death sentence.

Mr Wing identified a biochemical pathway linked to the disease - research which could be exploited to develop drugs.

His lecturer, consultant neurologist Tom Jenkins, praised Mr Wing's work as 'an important step in understanding the disease'.

Jody in bed after being diagnosed with MND

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"We do a lot of work here on MND, which remains an untreatable, incurable disease that kills people, usually in two to three years.

"This award is a really important way of inspiring our students to make the breakthrough we need, with Jody's story bringing home to them what a difference their work could make, and Theo is a very deserving first winner."

Mr Wing received a certificate and a stunning statuette created by Wakefield artist Jason Heppenstall, which was inspired by Jody's love of sunflowers and has gone on display in the entrance to the institute.

'The stuff of nightmares' - Jude Sellmeyer's moving speech to students

"I cannot begin to describe the horror of watching your child die of MND. The trauma is still with me.

"To watch your son die of MND - with no hope, no cure - is the stuff of nightmares.

Jude with her son Jody before he was diagnosed with MND

"Iʼm hoping this annual award in Jodyʼs name will instil passion in all research students here at SITraN to find the cause and to find the cure.

"MND is not just a disease of older people. It is brutal in its attack, across all ages.

"No stone must be left unturned in the search for a cure. I dream of a future where MND is arrested in its aggressive pace or wiped completely from the face of the earth.

"It is too late for Jody sadly... how we hoped! But I wish with my whole heart that not too many more people will have to journey this road through hell in the future."

Dr Tom Jenkins with award winner Theo Wing and the award's founder Jude Sellmeyer
A photo of Jody was displayed as the presentation was made to honour his memory and illustrate the human face of what students are trying to achieve
Jody in bed after being diagnosed with MND