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article imageFrench man with multiple sclerosis to tandem skydive over Everest

By Anne Sewell     Oct 26, 2013 in Sports
Kathmandu - 55-year-old Marc Kopp, a sufferer of multiple sclerosis, is not letting the disease get him down. He is planning to become the first disabled person to tandem skydive over Mount Everest.
Kopp says that he wants his feat of daring to send "a message of hope" to others suffering from the degenerative nervous system disease.
Kopp told AFP in Kathmandu, where he is planning his feat, "I am a happy person. Probably a little crazy ... just a little. First, happy."
The tandem skydive is apparently scheduled for next week.
Frenchman Marc Kopp  suffering from multiple sclerosis  is the first disabled person to tandem skydi...
Frenchman Marc Kopp, suffering from multiple sclerosis, is the first disabled person to tandem skydive over Mount Everest.
Screengrab
Kopp lives in Longwy, northeast of Paris, and has suffered for more than a decade from multiple sclerosis (MS), which disrupts the brain's ability to communicate with the body.
Symptoms of the disease are that muscles weaken, lesions emerge on the brain and spinal cord, and in the worst cases, patients can lose the ability to speak or walk.
Three years ago, Kopp, who was then a senior manager in local government, started experiencing the first symptoms of MS, when he saw a haze before his eyes. Initially he dismissed the blurred vision as a sign that he was working too hard. But then he had trouble moving his right leg and started experiencing sharp pain whenever he tried to do the simplest tasks.
Soon afterwards he started experiencing problems with his right arm, and eventually the whole of the right side of his body hurt.
Kopp was an enthusiastic horseman, but eventually any sporting activity became too painful.
Doctors then ran a battery of tests on Kopp and he was diagnosed in 2011 with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, which is a form of MS with virtually no prospect of remission.
"I thought I was prepared to hear anything, it had taken so long, one year to diagnose the cause. But when I heard the news, it hit me hard," he said.
A friend sent him reports about MS, but he says he couldn't bear to read them.
"But my wife looked at all of them and saw our future," he said. "Seeing her so frightened made me realise I had to be strong, I had to face my illness."
He became increasingly determined to not simply become a victim, even as his condition worsened and he decided to start volunteering for a support group for fellow sufferers.
Last July he met champion skydiver, Mario Gervasi at a parachuting event in Lorraine. Gervasi has already jumped over Everest and also over the North and South poles and was planning a trip to Nepal with French football legend Zinedine Zidane.
However, due to a problem with schedules, Zidane is unable to join him, and instead he has invited Kopp to skydive over the mountain with him.
Reportedly it took Kopp less than a minute to say a resounding "yes."
"Why not? I felt like I would send a message of hope. Even if you are sick, you are still alive," he said.
With the help of friends and well-wishers, Kopp has managed to raise the 26,000 euros ($35,885) needed for the trip.
The exact timing for the daring jump will depend on the weather, but apparently it could be as early as Monday next week.
Kopp told the media that the opportunity to jump from a helicopter hovering 10,000 meters (32,800 feet) above the roof of the world "is a gift."
Referring to the Belgian comic book hero who traveled the Himalayas in search of excitement, Kopp said: "I always wanted some adventure in my life, like my childhood hero Tintin."
The only problem so far is that he normally uses a wheelchair to get around, but apparently few places in Nepal are disabled-friendly. He has to make do with a walking stick, holding on to his friend, Gervasi.
Digital Journal will report on the daring jump as soon as it occurs.
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