LIFESTYLE

Stephen Hawking Film 'The Theory of Everything' Makes Grandfather Self-Diagnose Motor Neurone Disease

06/07/2015 12:22 BST | Updated 06/07/2015 12:59 BST

When Paul Whyley watched the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, he noticed concerning similarities between himself and the lead character.

As Professor Hawking, played by actor Eddie Redmayne, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in the film, the 62-year-old sat silently in the cinema, realising he had been suffering from the symptoms himself.

"There's a scene at the start where Stephen Hawking is running and he suddenly falls over, and I'd had a few falls at work recently. Then he's writing on a blackboard, but he can't reach with his right arm," Whyley said, according to the MailOnline.

The grandfather sat through the film as he didn't want to worry his wife, Jayne, but as soon as they got home he booked an appointment with a doctor.

paul whyley

Whyley began experiencing pain in his right shoulder and breathing difficulties last November. He had been to see his GP on more than one occasion before going to the cinema, but doctors were unable to diagnose him.

After watching the film, he booked to see a specialist at West Midlands Private Hospital in Halesowen.

The doctors performed a nerve test and in March, Whyley was told he had motor neurone disease.

According to the NHS, motor neurone disease is a rare condition that affects around two in every 100,000 people in the UK each year.

The condition progressively damages parts of the nervous system and leads to muscle weakness, often with visible wasting.

the theory of everything

Stephen Hawking attending the UK premier of The Theory of Everything

Common symptoms include a weakened grip, which can cause difficulty picking up or holding objects, weakness at the shoulder that makes lifting the arm difficult, dragging of the leg and slurred speech.

Whyley, now a retired blind-fitter, found holding a drill difficult before he was diagnosed with the disease.

His wife wants to raise awareness about the disease and has said the reality of motor neurone disease is very different for most people than it is for Hawking in the film.

"I want to raise awareness about just how rapid and devastating this disease is. Over the last three months my husband has gone downhill so quickly. He has a private piloting licence and was very active - now I have to bathe him," she said.

Whyley cannot afford to buy a voice machine or an electric wheelchair as high-tech as Stephen Hawking's, so his sister-in-law, Glynis Palmer, has arranged a school fete and set up a Crowdfunding page to try and raise the funds needed.

"I was totally shocked - devastated - when Paul was diagnosed. Paul and Jayne are still as in love as when they met and this is tragic," she said.

You can visit the Crowdfunding page here.

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