One bridge, one phobia and one giant challenge 

14 May 2018

Dr Derik Steyn and his wife and co-researcher, Shyuan Ngo.

Despite an unjustified fear of heights, University of Queensland researcher Dr Derik Steyn will leap from a Brisbane bridge to raise funds for a charity supporting people living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).  

Dr Steyn, who researches MND at UQ’s Centre for Clinical Research, was nominated for the Goodwill Bridge Swing by MND and Me.

“I feel sick to my stomach if I have to walk across a tall bridge, so the idea of swinging off the Goodwill Bridge triggers a real sense of panic,” he said.

“I’m terrified of heights, but I will do anything for a good cause.”

Dr Steyn’s fear of heights is so pervasive that it can strike almost anywhere.  

“While swimming at Stradbroke Island a few years ago, I reached a sudden drop in the ocean floor and had to immediately turn back to shore as I was terrified of falling – even though I was floating in water,” he said.

Dr Steyn needs to raise $1500 by 25 May in order to take the plunge that afternoon.

MND kills two Australians every day.

The incurable degenerative brain disease is a cause close to Dr Steyn’s heart.

“I moved to Australia to become a full-time carer for my mother,” he said.

“She was diagnosed with dementia in her early 50s and died within a year of me arriving.

“My experience taught me that all neurodegenerative diseases are the same – they exact an unnecessary and vicious toll on the people touched by the disease.

“If I can create knowledge through my MND research to lessen suffering for those with neurodegenerative diseases by just a single day, I will consider my career a success.”

MND and Me CEO Paul Olds said the Goodwill Bridge Swing also helped raise the profile of MND.

“As the Bridge Swing is so different and out in the open, it also doubles as a great awareness campaign,” Mr Olds said.

“It’s an awesome fundraising event as it gives participants a unique opportunity to do something very different and be pushed out of their comfort zone.”

MND and Me is hoping to attract 20 swingers and raise $30,000. 

To support Dr Steyn’s valiant leap for MND sufferers, donate online.

Media: Claire Usmar, , 3365 5118.