In the years after his diagnosis with MND, Joost van der Westhuizen, was on a “mission”.
A man who achieved the ‘impossible’ on the field of play, was determined to score some tries for patients with MND.
The Joost van der Westhuizen Centre for Neurodegeneration is a tribute to his vision, courage and unfailing determination.
The legacy continues …
From a Dream to Reality
In mid-2014 the legendary Number 9 founded the Joost van der Westhuizen Centre for Neurodegeneration, a Section 18A non-profit organisation dedicated to improving access to care for MND patients, supporting South African research efforts and building relationships with international institutions.
The JCN is not a dedicated building of bricks and mortar, but rather a network of MND clinics clinics, linked to departments of neurology at the major teaching hospitals, offering would offer comprehensive, holistic therapy to patients in the form of medical care, physiotherapy, occupational- and speech therapy and social work support.
To date, Joost’s legacy lives on through a growing number of JCN clinics throughout the country. In the Western Cape, both Groote Schuur and Tygerburg teaching hospitals now run regular multidisciplinary MND clinics that offer free care to patients. They also initiate and help fund research in South Africa.
In Gauteng the only dedicated multidisciplinary MND clinic runs at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. The Bara MND clinic has received formal recognition as a Center of Excellence by the Gauteng Department of Health in a plaque unveiling ceremony dedicated to Joost van der Westhuizen and the JCN on 6 July 2018, conducted by the MEC for Health, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa.
The support of local government is crucial. It facilitates relationships with international partners, which will bolster much-needed research and the establishment of clinical trials in South Africa.
The involvement of the DoH also means that the small but steadily increasing number of sufferers – often from impoverished communities who have to travel long distances for medical care – can now be helped.
The department has initiated a PHD programme that provides supplies and transport for patients from anywhere in the province to the clinic. Pharmaceutical giant, Aspen, has supported the initiative both with funding for equipment and the research programme.
Additional funding is always needed. Although all the infrastructure, treatment and staff costs are donated, it is imperative to fund new research and duplicate current international clinical trials. Funds are granted only for specific purposes, based on the motivation by doctors and researchers. Regular report backs are received, and all accounts are audited.
A state-of-the-art permanent clinic and neurodegeneration research facility remains the long-term vision. But there is work that can be done now. Joost said, “People are dying here and it’s time we did something about it. Although the centre is a long-term goal, we’ve started with what we have and where we are.”
Joost died in February 2017, but the work continues in his name.
The ‘impossible’ dive pass
Joost van der Westhuizen become world renowned for his signature dive pass, something that seemed impossible, yet when executed perfectly by the man himself, became a tool that was used to create some of the most magical moments in South African rugby history.
The Joost van der Westhuizen symbol was developed by combining 2 very simple images, namely, Joost’s iconic dive throw and a very simple graphic of the body’s nervous system.
The result is a pictographic figure of a diving Joost, consisting of a continuous loop of lines that represent how the body is connected by the internal nervous system from the brain to all parts of the body.
The Joost symbol tells a simple story of the body’s neurological dependance.