FIVE years after the doctors gave one of this year’s The Herald GM Citizen of the Year finalists two years to live, he is still going strong. Charl Parkin was diagnosed with the incurable motor neuron disease in 2007. Within seven months, he could no longer drive, he struggled with day to day tasks and battled to breathe at night.
Despite his battles, he started various projects to help others.
“The disease made me want to help other people. And I think most people do not think about helping others – once you get a job you get money, buy a car and never give back. I looked at the young children with no arms and legs and realised that they will never have the luxury of holding a girl’s hand,” Parkin said.
“That is when I realised I was not bad off because I still have my legs and arms and I am not in a wheelchair yet. And I went to a normal school. Motor neuron disease is a very quick disease and for me when the doctors gave me two years to live, it was a matter of talking to God and preparing for the wooden box,” he joked.
“I am going for my sixth year now, which is a miracle.”
EP Swimming administrator Lorraine Deasy said: “He got his full colours in 2010 because he went to two nationals.
“I take my hat off to him. I think if it wasn’t for his swimming he would have died by now. He is a pleasant guy – a lovely person,” Deasy said.
Parkin’s projects include starting a vegetable garden on a pavement for beggars in Humerail and establishing a trust fund for a Grade 11 pupil who was gang-raped.
In 2010, he received his Eastern Province swimming colours.
Being nominated for the coveted citizen of the year award was the furthest thing from his mind.
“I was very surprised because only very special people get to be finalists and there are more special people than me. I think it is awesome for The Herald to run a competition like this that inspires people.
“The acknowledgement for what one does is very important, and to be in the paper means that many people will know what one does and hopefully follow,” he said.
Parkin’s wife of 17 years, Liesl, who also nominated him, said she was proud of him.
“He is supposed to be dead, but he will die when he is ready. He spent a couple of months crying but the tears dried up and he started living life to the fullest.
“I think that everybody should face that reality of dying, because most people do not live their lives fully. He is the most honest man I have ever met and does not take short cuts in life. I am very proud of him.”
Parkin has represented South Africa at swimming competitions and, having missed out on the London Paralympics by about two seconds, has his sights set on Rio de Janeiro in 2016.