THE DESERT landscape holds a poignant place in Nick Humphries’ heart.
As a child, he would spend holidays walking through deserts in Oman and Egypt with his father Terry, who worked in the oil industry across Africa and the Middle East.
But when he returns to the Sahara Desert later this month, to take part in a 10-day, 60-mile trek, it will be without his father, who died in January after a battle with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). The neurodegenerative disease, often mistaken to Parkinson’s Disease in the early stages, is utterly life changing and leads to premature death.
Mr Humphries first started showing symptoms of the illness in 2005, but it was not until 2011 when he was finally diagnosed. The father of four died on January 21 at the Thistle Hill Nursing Home in Knaresborough, where he had been living for the past four years. He was just 59.
His son, 22, of Alne, North Yorkshire, said: “It started off with just small things, like he always seemed to be tired, but he then developed a limp, and would get confused and struggle to remember my name or where he put the car keys.
“Every day things got harder and harder for him, and by the time he was diagnosed he couldn’t walk.”
MSA causes the brain cells to shrink, resulting in problems with balance, movement and automatic functions like blood pressure control, swallowing and speech.
Some people with MSA say it feels like the disease traps them in their own bodies. There is no known cause or cure for MSA, which strikes at random, usually when people are in their late 50s. The latter stages of MSA can be extremely challenging and people often need around the clock care.
Mr Humphries, a chef at Leeds restaurant Filmore and Union, will begin his Saraha challenge on Friday, February 27. Anyone wishing to sponsor him can do so via www.justgiving.com/Nickh96