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MND pain prompts Echuca family to fight for funds

By Ivy Jensen

IT IS almost a year since Kevin Pagram lost his battle with MND and wife Rhonda said goodbye to the love of her life.

And it still hurts.

“I've been with him since I was 12 and gave me my first friendship ring at 14,” Rhonda said.

“We've been together ever since. I've never been alone before.”

Married for 43 years, the Echuca couple was devastated when Kevin was diagnosed with MND in 2017.

“He was sitting in the same chair as Neale Daniher sat in when he was told and Kevin had the same doctor,” Rhonda said.

“We looked at each other and Kevin told me it was a relief to finally know what was wrong with him.”

What the ex-security guard didn’t know was that he was given two years to live.

“He lasted two years and two months,” Rhonda said.

“He went down pretty quickly though. He wanted to go on the Ghan and travel to America but his muscles started wasting away very quickly.”

Kevin was in a wheelchair 12 months later.

Kevin Pagram was in a wheelchair 12 months after being diagnosed with MND. Photo by Cindy Power.

“It got to the point we couldn’t put him in the car so all his doctor’s appointments were done at home,” Rhonda said.

“He pretty much lived in the lounge which is set up with all his Melbourne Storm memorabilia.”

The couple’s daughter Sarah said her father was a proud man and never complained through his illness.

“He was very accepting of it, but probably hid it because of us. He worried about us.”

Rhonda said her larrikin husband stayed true to himself until the end.

“He was still joking five hours before he died and saying how he was being spoilt by the nurses,” she said.

“It was his decision in the end.”

The 65-year-old died on June 4, 2019, just a few days before the inaugural Echuca-Moama Big Freeze which raises funds for Fight MND.

“We had two sliders sliding on Kevin’s behalf. They raised almost $7000 which was just amazing,” Rhonda said.

“We also had t-shirts made up with Kevin’s face on it which was pretty special.”

Rhonda and Sarah Pagram with husband and father Kevin who died from MND in June 2019. Photo by Cindy Power.

While this year’s Big Freeze has been cancelled amid the coronavirus crisis, Rhonda and Sarah are urging people to buy beanies which will go directly to the top research facilities in Australia to help increase understanding of MND, develop treatments, and eventually find a cure.

“The money will help with more research into why people get this hideous disease and hopefully find a cure,” Rhonda said.

The Echuca Coles employee also praised the work of MND Victoria which provided the family with free equipment.

“They gave us an electric wheelchair, a manual wheelchair, bed, mattresses and cups. You don’t realise what you need,” she said.

“They were amazing. They encouraged me to keep working and I’m so glad I did. Work has been my saviour. They have been very supportive of me and even sell the beanies and 10 cents of their pork sales go to MND research.”

Rhonda has been dealt her fair share of tragedy, losing her only son in a tragic car accident in 1998.

While life has had its challenges, Rhonda and Sarah forge ahead, ensuring Kevin’s legacy continues.

“He would be proud and tickled pink that we are helping to raise money for such an important cause,” Rhonda said.

Sarah and Rhonda Pagram are encouraging people to buy a beanie to raise money for MND research. Photo by Cath Grey

To buy a $20 beanie or donate, go to https://hub.fightmnd.org.au/i-m-selling-big-freeze-6-beanies/team-guff

Beanies are also available from Echuca’s Fuzion Café and Candle Scents and Echuca South Corner Store, HRJ’s Upcycling in Moama, OTP Tongala Hotel Motel, Tongala Takeaway, Coles and Bunnings among others.

You can also help to virtually fill the MCG on June 8 by taking a photo of yourself in your Big Freeze 6 beanie and uploading it to social media with #FillTheG + @fightmnd and tag three mates.