Heart Breaking Last Lecture By Teacher Robbed Of Voice By Degenerative Disorder

March 16, 2017 | by | 0 Comments
This is the heartbreaking moment a much-loved teacher who was robbed of his voice by a degenerative disorder gave one last incredible lecture

This is the heartbreaking moment a much-loved teacher who was robbed of his voice by a degenerative disorder gave one last incredible lecture

This is the heartbreaking moment a much-loved teacher who was robbed of his voice by a degenerative disorder gave one last incredible lecture.

Paul Norman, 58, was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, forcing him to retire from his job as an English teacher.

He was later correctly diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy in 2012 which robbed his ability to speak, walk and look after himself.

His son Will, 22, began filming his every day life, eventually taking him back to Billericay School, Essex, where he taught English for 15 years.

The beloved teacher delivered an inspiring final assembly to a packed hall of his former students, painstakingly written on his iPad and played out on a speaker.

Mr Norman told his audience of his devastating struggle with his condition, even making them laugh with jokes about his “Stephen Hawking” voice.

Tragically he passed away ten months later in April last year, before film and English student Will had finished the documentary ‘One Last Lecture’, featuring the scene.

Paul Norman pictured with his son Will at home where he is cared for after being diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy.

Paul Norman pictured with his son Will at home where he is cared for after being diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy.

Much to Will’s regret, his father never got to see the completed film, which has been watched thousands of times since it was published online last month.

During the emotional lecture, he tells the students: “I’m doing this partly to educate you about disability.

“People have a habit of assuming that because the body doesn’t function properly the brain doesn’t either.

“But in reality the vast majority of disabled people function just the same mentally with all of the same feelings and emotional needs as everyone else.

“It is frustrating of course being trapped inside a body that doesn’t work and frustrating for the people that care for me.

“The other day I was moving my hand to scratch my nose and my carer thought I was signalling for my glasses.

“And recently my mum asked me what I would like to eat from the fridge. I asked for tiramisu and she thought I said tin of soup. It’s very confusing.”

Family photo of teacher Paul Norman giving a lecture before he was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy.

Family photo of teacher Paul Norman giving a lecture before he was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy.

And leaving them with some important life lessons, he adds: “”Teaching is really all about learning, and I have not stopped learning due to my disability.

“In fact some of the things I have learnt I will share with you, because being disabled as I am enables me to gain insight into what really matters in life.

“When I see the atrocities that people commit I wonder how far human beings can have yet to evolve.

“War is pointless.

“There are many good things about this world and most people are good.

“They should look at the positive side of people rather than the faults.

“Health is more important than money and the world is still a beautiful place.

“Love is important and making this film has certainly brought me closer to my son William.

“Life is a challenge and one should strive to be a better person.

“Although I am not religious I do believe that you should always treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.”

Paul pictured at home where he is cared for after being diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy.

Paul pictured at home where he is cared for after being diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy.

Will started making the film in July 2014 after he visited his father from Billericay, Essex, and found he was wheelchair bound.

He choked on a piece of rice, forcing Will to perform the Heimlich maneuver to save his life, and he went back to his university that night and “broke down”.

University of Sussex student Will explained: “That’s when I decided to start filming, just to capture memories and record how he is now, to hold on to the past.”

The pair grew close and for the first time Will – whose mum separated from his did when he was aged around ten – saw the reality of his dad’s every day struggles.

They gathered an assembly of former students and staff, and wrote the speech together

Final year student Will added: “It gave him and myself something that we could work on together.

“He always liked to help me with my homework, and now we had a project to work on together.”

He completed filming in the summer of 2015, before Paul passed away in April last year, and he completed the movie in mid-January this year.

“One of the most depressing elements of the whole process really is dad never got to see the full finished film.

“That’s my fault really.

“He was always asking me when it was going to be ready, but I was always striving for perfection, trying not to let him down with it.

“There is a feeling of emptiness that lots of people have seen it but he never got to see it.

“He never got to be the movie star that he wanted to be.”

Watch the film here – https://vimeo.com/201639510

LECTURE IN FULL

In his final lecture, he tells his tearful audience: “Hello everyone. It’s good to see you all.

“When William first suggested this to me I was a bit apprehensive because of the changes in me and looking at me is scary.

“If I see people slipping away I will understand, however if I see anybody on their phones they will be confiscated.

“The last time most of you saw me I was a different person. I now have Multiple System Atrophy, or MSA for short.

“It affects every part of me and I mean every part, except my brain.

“The worst things are not being able to talk or walk anymore and having to rely completely on other people.

“So seeing all of you is very emotional. I cried enough last Christmas when I saw the wonderful video which some of you were in.

“I’m doing this partly to educate you about disability.

“People have a habit of assuming that because the body doesn’t function properly the brain doesn’t either.

“But in reality the vast majority of disabled people function just the same mentally with all of the same feelings and emotional needs as everyone else.

“It is frustrating of course being trapped inside a body that doesn’t work and frustrating for the people that care for me.

“The other day I was moving my hand to scratch my nose and my carer thought I was signalling for my glasses.

“And recently my mum asked me what I would like to eat from the fridge. I asked for tiramisu and she thought I said tin of soup. It’s very confusing.

“I have friends and family who visit me regularly and have stood by me.

“I also have a wonderful team of carers who go beyond the call of duty to help me and I can’t praise them enough.

“I certainly couldn’t do that job if I was able to. They get paid little by society and they do 12 hour shifts.

“Imagine 12 hours with me. It’s enough to drive anyone balmy.

“I’m not saying they are balmy by the way.

“Honestly, I feel like Stephen Hawking – except I have a better voice.

“As you can see my sense of humour has not gone, in fact it helps me see the funny side even the moments when it is most difficult.

“In fact inappropriate laughter is one feature of MSA, so I’ll laugh when it is most serious. That’s my excuse anyway.

“For example I was in a church not long ago and I suddenly started laughing for no reason.

“This would have been even more embarrassing had the congregation not known.

“It was my uncle Bob’s funeral.

“Teaching is really all about learning, and I have not stopped learning due to my disability.

“In fact some of the things I have learnt I will share with you, because being disabled as I am enables me to gain insight into what really matters in life.

“When I see the atrocities that people commit I wonder how far human beings can have yet to evolve.

“War is pointless.

“There are many good things about this world and most people are good.

“They should look at the positive side of people rather than the faults.

“Health is more important than money and the world is still a beautiful place.

“Love is important and making this film has certainly brought me closer to my son William.

“Life is a challenge and one should strive to be a better person.

“Although I am not religious I do believe that you should always treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.

“Now enough of this before I turn into John Lennon.

“Although I can’t talk any more, I can answer you as long as the answer is yes or no.

“If for example you ask if it’s nice to see you I can go like that [thumbs up].

“Conversely, if you ask me if sitting in a chair all day is much fun, I will go like this [thumbs down].

“So if I chat to you later I’m afraid we”ll have to play by those rules, and whatever you do, please don’t ask me two questions at once.

“Finally, thank you all for coming. It means a lot to me. I’m sorry it’s a bit short, but at least it’s sweet.”

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