Former Springbok captain Joost van der Westhuizen will travel to the United States for clinical studies into his form of motor neuron disease (MND).
In 2011, Van der Westhuizen was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an aggressive form of MND. Van der Westhuizen went on to establish the J9 Foundation for fellow sufferers.
‘They said I would be in a wheelchair after a year. They said I had a 20% chance to live two years. And I decided “stuff them”, I will decide when I go,’ said Van der Westhuizen.
Van der Westhuizen will participate in clinical studies in Boston at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where the head of neurology, Dr Merit Cudowicz, is conducting research into the disease.
He will also visit the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Centre in New York, which provides research and clinical support for MND/ALS sufferers.
The former scrumhalf hopes to establish a similar institute in South Africa.
'In the beginning you go through all the emotions and you ask, “Why me?” It's quite simple, “Why not me?” If I have to go through this to help future generations, why not me?' said Van der Westhuizen.