Our Members - Their Stories

MDANZ members share their personal stories of living with a Muscular Dystrophy condition. 

Flynn’s wheels bring freedom and independence

07 January 2021
Melanie Louden

spectacular recumbent bike is seeing 17-year-old Flynn Mitchell get back into the outdoors again, which is having a positive impact on his mental well-being and… he's leaving the rest of his family in his dust.

By Melanie Louden

A positive mindset, the willingness to take risks, and some vital support from the Bradley Jenkin Memorial Fund is seeing Flynn Mitchell make the most of the outdoors again   

Flynn has Friedreichataxia and uses a mobility scooter to get around, and a recumbent bike, which he works with his legs, to keep up with his sport-loving family 

The “spectacular” recumbent bikewhich cost approximately $16,300was bought with the help of fundraising by friends, and a $1,000 grant from the Bradley Jenkin Memorial Fund.  

Flynn says his new wheels give him freedom, independence and the opportunity to have fun, while hopefully slowing down progression until a cure for Friedreichs ataxia is found. 

The 17-year-old, from Auckland, says getting back outdoors has had a positive impact on his mental wellbeing. 

It was important for me to get a recumbent bike so that I could get out and about with my family again, and do some outdoor sport in my free time that is not at the gym. 

“After years of struggling to keep up with the rest of the family they now ‘smell my dust’ trying to follow me.” 

Flynn is very grateful for having such great friends and financial assistance from the fund. 

“Without their help and support I might not have been able to get the bike which means freedom and independence for me. 

While Flynn waited for his recumbent bike to arrive, he had a rental which he has taken to Muriwai, the Hunua RangesWaitawa Regional Park and he has done part of the Hauraki Rail Trail. 

The plans don’t stop there. Flynn, his parents Scott and Gesa, and his brothers Peer15, and Yonas, 13, cycled the Central Otago Rail Trail over the Christmas holidays and there are plans to complete other trails throughout New Zealand during summer. 

The Mitchell family: Peer, left, Yonas, Gesa, Flynn, Scott.

Flynn was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy “out of the blue” in 2014. The disease sees the heart muscle become abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. 

also started getting some spinal and balance issues and people around me realised that there must be something else going on,” Flynn says.  

I went from specialist to specialist and had a genetic test in 2018 which confirmed the diagnosis of Friedreichataxia. 
The sport-loving teenager says the progression of the condition meant he was becoming quite isolated, he could no longer walk around school, and had to adapt the sports he plays and how he takes part in them.  

My condition has progressed in the way that I now have to make key changes in my life, such as [using] different methods of mobility and different ways that I go about things, like using a recumbent bicycle. 
I used to walk around school by myself, played sports and went hiking. Now I stick to the gym and use a mobility scooter. I am currently involved in rowing as a coxswain and training at the pool, and I’ve picked up adaptive skiing, which I really enjoy.” 

Flynn has even managed to combine his love of sports with fundraising for Friedreichataxia.  

In May he took part in the “Lend MSome Muscles” campaign, raising $4,000 for the FriedreichAtaxia Research Alliance (FARA) 

In October a team of New Zealand fundraisers, organised by Flynn and his family, took part in the Global Ride Ataxia Challenge and raised $18,971 – some $3,900 more than their initial goal, and contributing to the US$444,921 raised globally for FARA.  

The money will go towards research to find a cureFlynn says he wanted the challenge to be held in New Zealand to raise awareness about the different challenges people face.  

Flynn is encouraging MDANZ membersto make use of the Bradley Jenkin Memorial Fund. 

“Pick something you know you will use, and which will bring joy and be worth the purchase. Try before you buy. We hired a bike for six months and I feel I have made a very informed decision and it’s what I really wanted. 

The Bradley Jenkin Memorial Fund 

The Bradley Jenkin Memorial Fund is designed to help MDANZ members with a neuromuscular condition receive funding for access opportunities and specialised resources that enable them to achieve freedom. 

The fund has helped members purchase specialised sports equipment, participate in sporting events, it has contributed towards the cost of obtaining a mobility dog, provided mobility equipment, and assisted with career development such as university fees and course fees. 

About the Bradley Jenkin Memorial Fund. 

* This story was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of In Touch magazine. 

For more information please contact:     
Melanie Louden 
Communications and Marketing Advisor 
Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand 
027 509 8774 
[email protected]