Written by: Martin Taurins, Chair of the Rotarian Action Group of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness and member of the Rotary Club of Gisborne (Victoria).

When our son Jacob, a budding musician, was diagnosed at age 20 with multiple sclerosis (MS), we didn’t know anything about the disease. Jacob held university degrees in arts, business, and music.

All that changed when he became one of 2.5 million people worldwide diagnosed with this neurological condition, in which the body’s immune system inexplicably turns on itself, attacking the protective sheaths that surround nerve fibers. Depending on the type of MS, symptoms range from tingling or numbness, visual impairment, mobility restrictions, loss of coordination, independence and eventually paralysis can set in.

Common in adults aged 20-40 and seen more among women than men in a 3 to 1 ratio, MS as yet has no cure. But our family wanted to take action. We felt frustrated that no one could tell us what caused MS and what plans there were to find a cure. Now we realize how complex the disease is.

Rotary Club of Gisborne members had empathy for Jacob’ diagnosis and started a Club project, which became District endorsed. We gathered with Rotarians with an interest in finding a cure for the disease, to form the Rotarian Action Group of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness (RAGMSA). Together we had a mission of promoting MS awareness and urging Rotarians to work with their local MS societies to spread awareness, raise funds and assist people with MS and families. We have also recently teamed up with Australian Rotary Health to fund a PhD Scholarship into MS. We hope that through research, we can get one step closer to finding a cure for MS.

In the early days Jacob played the piano and performed at our Club and other Club fundraisers in D9800. Being involved in these events encouraged him to join Rotary and serve as Club President of the Rotary Club of Essendon North. With the support of community grants and his Club, he was able to get a new wheelchair that allowed him to be more independent. With the help of his carer he used a specially-equipped computer to realize his dream of gaining an Honours and Masters degree in music composition and of writing music. Before being diagnosed with MS, Jacob could sing and play many instruments and wanted to be an Orchestra Conductor.

To the devastation of our family, Jacob passed away on July 3, 2018. He managed life with progressive MS for 30 years, but finally succumbed to Pancreatic and Liver Cancer.

To honour Jacob’s memory, we wish to name the Australian Rotary Health Funding Partner PhD Scholarship the “Rotarian Action Group of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness, Jacob Taurins Memorial Scholarship.”

We urge Rotarians to become involved with their local MS societies and hold events to spread awareness of the disease and support efforts to find a cure. Put it in Club plans and objectives, so it becomes public. Let Clubs know MS is a major problem, especially with young people.

Via our website and Facebook, Clubs or individuals can join our group or can gain advice on how to start an international project or grant.

To find out more about the PhD Scholarship, click here.