Graceland, Memphis by Lesley Hartley

People who know me well know that I am a huge Elvis Presley fan and have been since childhood. I always dreamed that one day I would go to Memphis and visit Graceland. When I reached the grand old age of fifty in October 2014, my dream came true and when my wonderful husband took me there for my birthday. I woke up on the day of my fiftieth in Heartbreak Hotel and spent the day visiting Graceland on the VIP tour – it really was for a dream come true.

However, there was also another very special reason for going to Graceland and this was to fulfil a wish for our dear late friend Sal Koyuncu. Sal was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2012.

What is Motor Neurone Disease?

MND is a group of diseases that affect the nerves in the brain and spinal cord that tell your muscles what to do. This leads the muscles to weaken, stiffen and waste. It can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. MND effects up to five thousand adults in the UK and there is a one in three hundred chance of developing MND across a lifetime. It is an uncommon, but by no means rare disease and it has many strands, but the most common strand is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The average life expectancy ranges from two to five years from onset of symptoms, MND as of yet has no cure and is considered a death sentence.

Sal was also a huge Elvis fan like me and was fortunate enough to be able to visit Graceland himself, albeit in a wheelchair, with the support of his loving family. The one thing however that Sal never got to do was to write his name on the outside wall of Graceland next to the famous gates.

So, armed with a tin of yellow paint and a brush, off we went to the wall and wrote his name in big letters. We took photographs for him and made a video. On our return home we visited Sal, who was now bedridden and could only communicate through his iPad and showed him what we had done. He was so thrilled and happy, and it meant a lot to him that we had done this. In another twist to the tale, Suzie, our new Client Services Manager is married to Sal’s brother and we had a lovely bonding moment together to reminisce.

Sadly, Sal lost his battle with MND and passed away in December 2014, he was only 38 years old, he will never be forgotten.

Motor Neurone Disease research is not funded by any government scheme and heavily relies on the public’s generosity and fundraising, to find out more information on this please visit www.mndassociation.org.

Thank you

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