A GRIPPING LOVE STORY
Morné Basson has been involved in creating awareness for people suffering from Motor Neuron Disease over the last few years through various and sometimes crazy events. Through one of his crazy challenges in raising awareness, he met his beautiful Angel, Wilma Loggenberg (Wilma'tjie)
Morné wanted to run the 2015 Comrades Marathon but was working onboard a luxury cruise-liner in Alaska at the time of the race. He is someone that doesn't believe in challenges in life but rather opportunities. He contacted the Comrades Marathon Organizers in South Africa and informed them of his plan to run the "race" - the full 90km - on the same day as the actual event on a treadmill on board the luxury cruise ship - Celebrity Solstice, in Ketchikan Alaska.
They thought Morné was mad but loved the idea and supported him in his effort. He successfully completed the distance and became the first man ever to run an ultra marathon at sea… This challenge was done to create awareness for people suffering from MND. This story touched thousands of people as several news channels mentioned this in their news headlines on the day. Social media was also very active with stories about the event… Wilma commented on a Facebook post as encouragement for Morné as this was something close to heart for her as well. Morné send Wilma a thank you inbox message and they started to talk on Messenger. He never asked for her number. They started to learn everything about each other. Even though they were two people with completely different personalities and thoughts on life (Morné soft and sometimes shy and Wilma loud and outspoken) they both had one thing in common: A small heart and empathy for others.
Early in 2016 Morné decided to take this a step further. His goal was to run 160km on a treadmill, for the same cause - creating awareness for those suffering from MND. During the buildup for this event Morné attended a golf day he helped to arrange for MND awareness. Morné checked in at the event and Wilma saw the Facebook post and commented that she was in the same area. They decided to meet for coffee at the Wimpy in Sunwardpark, Boksburg. Morné was married before and never wanted to have kids… But there was a different connection with Wilma… After months of talking on social media, Morné met the beautiful Wilma Loggenberg in person and it was love at first sight. His first words to her (after looking her in the eye with a massive smile): "I am going to have a daughter with you and I am going to marry you." Morné gave Wilma a hug, lifting her up and did not let go for a while… They had coffee and the rest is history. They were a couple from that day onwards..
The next treadmill event was planned for July but Morné suffered from Meningitis and plans for the event had to be put on hold until later in the year… Morné ran the “race” on 16 December 2016 in Cape Town at the SA Rugby Museum. The plan was to finish the 160km within 18 hours without getting off the treadmill once. It was an extremely hot and humid day as a heat wave hit Cape Town that afternoon – something not often experienced to such an extend in that part of the world. Morné started very well but soon realized his body was taking strain. From about 25km into the race Morné started to suffer. It is still not clear if it was still side effects from the Meningitis, the extreme heat that caused dehydration or his challenging training program through the year that got the better of him on the day.
He is a fighter and refused to give up. He kept going throughout the night with the support of Wilma, family and friends. The next morning, after already being on the treadmill for 12 hours, Morné was struggling. His mind was strong but his body was suffering. Morné, being very passionate about health and wellness, would not do anything to put himself at risk. He had to slow down and started to walk. The help of a good friend and doctor was called in. It was confirmed that Morné was completely dehydrated. He refused to get off the treadmill – thinking about all the people suffering from MND that is “trapped” in their own bodies that can't go anywhere or do anything. He was devastated knowing that he might not achieve his goal of finishing the MND160km Treadmill Challenge.
After being on the treadmill for 19 hours, after running with a drip in his arm, after much pain and many tears, Morné decided to call it a day. He managed to do 90km with a broken body. It would've been irresponsible to continue. Reflecting on the event, Morné realized that what he went through on the day is what MND sufferers go through daily… They plan their life and then suddenly life throws them a curve ball. They try to finish the race – in their minds believing that they can, but their bodies have different plans. Motor Neuron Disease is a crippling disease and one of the most devastating diseases around, not only for patients but also for their families and loved ones. Before he got of the treadmill he promised himself that he would be back doing something bigger and better… Wilma supported him unconditionally and was there every step of the way.
In Morné's own words: “I might have lost the challenge but in my heart it feels like I won the race.”
In 2017 Morné challenged himself once again - this time raising the bar. He decided to run 31 Marathons (42,2km) in 31 days on a treadmill at various venues in Gauteng. He started on 28 September 2017 and finished with the last marathon on 28 October 2017 At Carnival Mall in Brakpan Gauteng. This is the town where Wilma grew up.
It was a tough and challenging experience with his body taking a lot of strain. The biggest challenge was keeping the mind strong… Morné successfully ran a total of 1308,2km at an average of under 4hours 45minutes hours per marathon - with the last one being done at a time of 3 hours 45 minutes. Wilma was there all the way to give Morné all the support and love he needed. The last marathon was quite emotional. Morné, whilst still being on the treadmill entertained the crowd in the mall with a very inspirational talk. Chariots of Fire and other favorite songs of Morné and Wilma, each with a special meaning to them, were played loudly on the sound system. Tears were flowing all over… Morné got off the treadmill and as with the previous challenge in Cape Town, he took Wilma in his arms and wouldn't let go... Little did he know what was about to follow in the months to come.
Wilma has always been just as passionate about creating awareness for MND. She supported Morné in all his efforts. Their relationship was an absolute fairytale, with their Facebook profiles being a true reflection of their happiness. They were both truly blessed. It was a relationship of giving 100% and not expecting anything in return. They were two individuals with a complete different background and personalities, yet so perfect for each other.
Wilma and Morné got engaged on 17 November 2017. December 2017 they took Wilma's dad, Gawie Loggenberg, on holiday in the Western Cape. They wanted to spoil him and show him all the special places they loved and enjoyed so much.
Wilma was a workaholic and great in her job as a project manager. Since their return from holiday Wilma suffered from severe sinus. Unfortunately Wilma (like many people do) at times neglected her health… It was most often because of work, doing more, deadlines that needed to be reached, answering emails late at night… She never wanted to take of work when she was sick, as she never wanted to let her clients and company down. Far to many companies get away with creating an environment where employees feel that they need to do more than what's expected of them in order not to lose their jobs. This is often the case with many people in a working environment. Morné hope that by sharing this it would be a wake-up call for others…
On 11 March 2018, Wilma was supposed to fly to Accra Ghana to kick off another project. Wilma and Morné still had friends over on the evening of the 10th for a braai. That Sunday morning when they woke up, Morné saw Wilma was not feeling well and asked her not to fly… Wilma, being true to herself, replied by saying she cannot let her client and company down – and Morné took her to OR Tambo International… Little did they know that it would be the last time ever for Wilma to walk onto a plane...
The flight attendants onboard realized she was not well and a decision was made not to let her fly. Morné, who was still close to the airport, fetched her and immediately took her to hospital. Wilma was under the impression that they were going home, still being in work mode… She even asked Morné to please help make arrangements for her to be flying the next day…
Wilma was admitted to ICU after treatment at the emergency room at the hospital. That afternoon all seemed to be under control, with Morné being by her side throughout. That following morning at 1:20am things took a turn for the worse… Wilma's lungs started to collapse. They had to start with the intubation process. The doctors asked Morné to wait outside, as it was not a pretty picture to see and something that could be very traumatic for most people. Morné told them that he wanted to be present. Slowly Wilma's body started to give in. Her heart stopped soon after and they had to start with the CPR and the defibrillation process. Morné held her hand through all of this and kept on praying… God had other plans. After being declared dead, the nursing team still tried to resuscitate Wilma'tjie for another 45 minutes – they refused to give up… Morné was left to tell her dad and beloved sister (Nicolene) that Wilma passed away… The fairytale was over…
Wilma had a condition called “Atypical pneumonia” (sometimes being called walking pneumonia). Most people with this form of undetected pneumonia often don't even realize they have it – therefor often going undetected. They often feel well enough to continue with their normal routine…
Within a matter of seconds your entire life can change… That very same morning Morné promised Wilma's Dad that he would somehow find a way to take something positive from the situation and try to assist other people – that is the type of person Wilma was as well…
Motor Neuron Disease was something very close to heart for both Wilma and Morné. Having lost the love of his life, Morné knew he would somehow have to find the strength to continue with this to honor Wilma. Morné had plans for another crazy challenge in 2018, but with the passing of his beautiful Angel, that plans were no longer an option.
Morné was left heartbroken, yet he is still thankful for their time together. He keep on saying that they were truly blessed. Many people never experience what Wilma and Morné shared - even when married for 50 years. People that followed them on social media as well as family and friends knew how happy they were in their almost perfect relationship…
It took a while for Morné to decide what he will take on next…
One Friday morning, whilst sitting in the same church where Wilma's memorial service took place (Morné attended the memorial service of another MND sufferer), Morné suddenly received a word from God telling him to start training again and focus on a next challenge. After the memorial, Morné stopped at the Wimpy restaurant just down the road from the church in Sunward Park, Boksburg.
Whilst sitting there having a coffee, the same message from God came again, this time with the number 72 being very clear as part of the message. That following Monday Morné started to do research… The result was the 72 Day 72 Half Marathon Treadmill Challenge.
On 7 January 2019 Gawie Loggenberg, Wilma's dad also passed away. He had a stroke. It's been a very tough year. Life is short. Life is not fair. We cannot change yesterday. We certainly don't know what tomorrow will bring. Make today count. Morné refuses to give up on life. He will continue in trying to make a difference, especially in creating awareness for MND.
Morné is thankful that he can look back at his relationship with Wilma and say: NO REGRETS.
That is his message to everyone out there. Live your life in such a way that when there is a setback of whatever kind, you can always look back and say no regrets - whether that is health, religion, financial or even in a relationship. Make now count.
Not once did Morné (or Wilma) leave the house without saying "I love you". They never took the small things for granted. They both gave 100% in their relationship without expecting anything in return. They were two individuals that were able to function independently, walking side by side and having God as their foundation. That is the main reason why Morné can look back today on precious memories. It doesn't take the pain away, but it certainly makes things a lot easier.
Always remember, your body is your temple.
Phill 4:13 You can do anything through Him who gives you strength.
Morné started his next challenge on 15 July 2019 trying to better a Guinness World Record by running 72 Half Marathons in 72 days on a treadmill at various Planet Fitness Health Clubs across South Africa to once again raise awareness for Motor Neuron Disease. He succesfully completed this challenge on 24 September 2019 at Planet Fitness Fourways in Gauteng.
The Treadmill Story