McNeil all smiles despite struggles with Muscular Dystrophy

Published on August 16, 2014

It was 1976. James McNeil was in his mid-twenties – at what should have been the prime years of his life – when he started noticing something wasn’t right. 

He was stumbling and he didn’t have the strength he used to. He knew something must have been wrong.

His doctor sent him for tests in Halifax, which revealed he has Muscular Dystrophy, a disease, which gradually weakens a person’s muscles.

For him it was a life sentence though and not a death sentence. He and his wife raised two sons and he worked until 1989. For much of his life was still able to walk on his own.

It’s been almost 40 years since he was diagnosed and as he participated in the Walk for Muscular Dystrophy on Saturday at noon in Scotsburn he was driving the motorized wheelchair that he uses to get around these days.

“Right now I can’t walk,” he says. “I can transfer, but I can’t walk.”

MD is a hereditary disease and while his father refused to admit it, McNeil is sure he had it as well.

“He was ashamed of it.”

His brother was also diagnosed.

There is no medicine or cure for the disease yet. He said there are various types and the each affect different people differently.

The Walk for Muscular Dystrophy, which was hosted by the Firefighters of Pictou County, is an important thing to raise money and awareness of the disease he said.

“The money that’s raised in Pictou County comes back to Pictou County for whatever we need it for,” he said.

Motorized wheelchairs like the one he depends on now, cost thousands of dollars.

With a son and now a granddaughter who also took part in Saturday’s walk, McNeil has another wish.

“Hopefully they’ll find a cure for it.”


FAQs from Muscular Dystrophy Canada

Who can be affected by muscular dystrophy or related muscle diseases?

Anyone can be affected. Contrary to popular belief, muscular dystrophy is not exclusively a childhood disorder. While some types of muscular dystrophy are first evident in infancy or early childhood, other types may not appear until later in life.


What are the symptoms?

Principal symptoms include progressive muscle wasting, weakness, and loss of function. Common signs include poor balance with frequent falls, difficulty walking, limited range of movement, and drooping eyelids.


What causes a neuromuscular disorder?

Most neuromuscular disorders are caused by genetic mutations. These mutations can be passed on from generation to generation, through a parent’s DNA, or they can occur in a single individual due to a spontaneous mutation.

While many neuromuscular disorders are genetic, some are not. Conditions such as myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barré syndrome are autoimmune disorders, caused by a problem with the person’s immune system.