Stellenbosch University’s Rory Dunbar Goes The Extra Mile In Paris


 

Presenting research at a global conference, ramping up pavements and maneuvering around the cobbled streets of Paris…. It’s all in a day’s work for Rory Dunbar, public health specialist at the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at Stellenbosch University.

Anyone who knows Rory, who was paralysed during a motorbike accident when he was 16, recognizes the positive spirit that he radiates. He also makes it look so easy to get around in a wheelchair. But behind the apparent ease is a fighting spirit and months of planning for a trip such as his recent one to the 44th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Paris in early November.

From finding the right hotel and arranging specific seats on the flight to investigating which metro stations are wheelchair-accessible, every detail counts.

Rory and his wife, Kim, set about planning for the Paris trip long beforehand – but even then, they had to go with the flow once they touched down in the French capital.

Rory’s adventures got off to an early start soon after getting off the plane on arrival.

“When helping me off the plane, they nearly dropped me over the side of the stairs. The poor guy helping to carry me in the wheelchair nearly died of fright,” he laughs.

But typically taking things in his stride, Rory says you need to adapt. “It doesen’t help to get stressed.”

Kim is a pillar of support – and her inner strength matches her resilience. On arrival at the airport, she hauled a 30-kilogram backpack on her back, as well as a mobile hoist, together with pushing Rory in his wheelchair.

“It’s hard work, but it’s great that I’m able to be with Rory and help him when he’s overseas,” says Kim.

Despite the challenges, Rory say it’s rewarding being able to travel internationally and present research which he hopes will ultimately help to make life easier for people with TB in communities in South Africa.

Through working on data preparation and analysis at the Tygerberg campus of Stellenbosch University, Rory has been pivotal in a research study which explores the cost effectiveness of the new TB molecular diagnostics test, Gene Xpert.

His trip to Paris and leadership at a workshop at The Union conference got the full backing of Stellenbosch University.

“Everyone from the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, to the Vice Dean, DTTC director, Nulda Beyers, and the DTTC team members have been extremely supportive,” says Rory.

Stellenbosch University provides the necessary funds for Kim to accompany Rory when he travels internationally. The University has also invested in a fold-up, mobile hoist for Rory, which is essential when he needs to get in and out of bed.

In his rare spare time in Paris, Rory made the most of every opportunity to explore the city. A new innovation‘free wheel’ which attaches to the footrest of a wheelchair, made it much easier for Rory and Kim to get around, particularly over those romantic, but hard to traverse cobbled streets of Paris.

With their adventurous spirit and positive attitude, it’s clear that Rory and Kim make a formidable team, who can count on the support of the DTTC and Stellenbosch University.

FREE WHEELING IN PARIS: Rory Dunbar, who works at the Tygerberg campus of  Stellenbosch University, takes time out in Paris, where he presented research at The Union World Conference on Lung Health in early November

FREE WHEELING IN PARIS: Rory Dunbar, who works at the Tygerberg campus of Stellenbosch University, takes time out in Paris, where he presented research at The Union World Conference on Lung Health in early November