Cape Town-140821-Allan Johns, John Maytham and Matthew Newnham poured ice water over their heads at the Prime Media Offices to show their support for ALS sufferes-Photographer-Tracey Adams

Cape Town - Temperatures are about to plummet even further as the Ice Bucket Challenge – a world wide phenomenon to raise funds for ALS or motor neuron disease (MND) – takes off in the Mother City.

As the clouds parted for a while on Thursday afternoon talk radio host John Maytham took up the challenge and drenched himself in icy water. The rules stipulate that within 24 hours of nomination, the nominee must be filmed pouring a bucket of iced water over their heads.

In South Africa, funds raised go to the Motor Neuron Disease Association. The organisation raises money and provides the best possible support for people living with MND, their families and carers. Physical assistance and psychological counselling is provided.

Maytham, of 567 CapeTalk, challenged listeners to join in and Matthew Newham and Alan Johns responded to the call. They joined him yesterday afternoon at the Primedia offices in Green Point.

Since the challenge went viral on social media in July, $23-million (R246m) has been raised in the US to help sufferers of the illness and raise awareness.

The Daily Mail reports the US-based ALS Association reported a dramatic rise in donations.

The UK-based MND Association received £4 000 (R70 000) from text message donations.

Sportsmen who have participated include David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt and Tiger Woods. Other big names to take part in the challenge were Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Mark Zuckerberg and former US president George Bush.

Charlie Sheen is among those who have opted to donate money, instead of enduring the icy shower.

The illness was thrust into the spotlight in South Africa when former Springbok skipper Joost van der Westhuizen was diagnosed in 2011 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), an aggressive form of MND. His prognosis at the time was that he would be in a wheelchair after a year, and have a 20 percent chance living for two years.

In support of the initiative, Van der Westhuizen was also drenched with ice at his home in Dainfern, Randburg this week.

Motor neuron disease is caused by the degeneration of the upper motor neurones and causes both weakness, stiffness and resistance to movement in the muscles with changes in the reflexes which the doctor can elicit. Degeneration of the lower motor neurons causes muscle wasting, weakness, flickering of small groups of muscle fibres spontaneously and muscle cramps.

Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, it destroys parts of the nervous system that control essential activities such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing.

To date, there is no cure and life expectancy ranges from one to five years after onset, depending on the particular muscle groups affected.


Earlier this year, Van der Westhuizen – who now has limited use of his hands, and struggles to lift his arms, walk and talk – went to the US for treatment.

Other subsequent high profile sufferers include former Springbok, Western Province and Stormers centre Tinus Linee, and former Sharks player Ryan Walker.

Linee’s speech started slurring in 2012 and last year he found out he had MND. The escalating costs for his care led to him auctioning off his Springbok and Western Province blazers to raise money. In April this year, he was put on a ventilator. His hands are mostly paralysed.

Walker was diagnosed two years ago, shortly after the birth of his first child.

Cape Argus


Symptoms to keep an eye out for

While there have been several suggestions, the cause of the illness is unknown.

Research worldwide is continuing, but there is no treatment which can alter the course or stem the progression of the disease. The disease is quite rare, with two cases per 100 000 people globally.

Most sufferers are 50 or older, but occasionally people in their twenties and thirties develop MND. The occurrence ratio is double in men.

Symptoms depend on which muscle fibres are affected initially, but it could start with stiffness in the legs, dragging of one leg, or marked weakness in the legs. Tongue muscles and the swallowing mechanism are affected early, with slurring of speech, difficulty swallowing.

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Information: the MNDA website.