Meet Jean-Pierre Béland. He lives with muscular dystrophy.
Jean-Pierre Béland was 30 years old when he started to have difficulty walking. Just one year later, in 1985, he had to stop working altogether. At the time he was working in operations at Canada Post, and really loved his job.
He hated leaving a job he loved, but what made matters worse was that the doctors couldn’t pinpoint what he had — although they knew he had a muscle illness.
Finally, in 1993, the diagnosis came: “Specialists at the Montreal Neurological Institute told me I had mitochondrial myopathy.” A disease that falls under the muscular dystrophy family, mitochondrial myopathy affects the mitochondria, tiny energy-producing structures that are a cell’s ‘power plants.’ A defect — which in Jean-Pierre’s case was inherited through his mother’s side —in either a mitochondrial gene or a gene in the cell nucleus affects the ability of the mitochondria to function.
During the 43 years that Jean-Pierre has lived with mitochondrial myopathy, he has had one health scare — when the doctors found an aneurysm in his abdomen and had to operate. “For someone with my disease, it could have been a life-or-death situation,” says Jean-Pierre, who gave up smoking a long time ago to improve his respiratory health. He practises a healthy lifestyle, and is thankful that his symptoms haven’t deteriorated significantly. Although his muscles have weakened, he can still negotiate stairs, operate a motor vehicle and get around the shopping centre with the use of a motorized scooter.
From the very beginning, Jean-Pierre has relied on the resources offered by Muscular Dystrophy Canada, one of 16 national health charities working under the HealthPartners umbrella to transform the health of Canadians. Through its equipment program, he has received financial assistance to enable him to purchase three motorized scooters to date. As well, Jean-Pierre received valuable information on how to take good care of his physical health. “I am living proof that donating to HealthPartners works.
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