Meet Duncan Collins

Name: Duncan Collins

Age: 22

Where do you call home? Conway, South Carolina

Education: Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Culture and Design from Coastal Carolina University

Who do you live with? I’m currently living with roommates, but when my lease expires at the end of July, I’ll be living with my parents.

What’s a typical day for you? On a typical day, I work from 9:00-2:00 doing graphic design for the athletic department at Coastal, then I’ll go to the gym, then I’ll end the day watching a sports game – right now it’s baseball.

How long have you known you are living with FA? I was diagnosed in 2011. I started doing PT in 2010 because of a football injury, and the physical therapist noticed my balance was not the best. It took a while for my neurologist to diagnose me, but after some tests Friedreich’s ataxia was the diagnosis.

Are there any others with FA in your family: No other members of my family have FA.

Describe your transition from walking to walker/wheelchair. The transition from walking to wheelchair was a struggle. One night I was walking and my knee buckled on me. I ended up spraining my ACL. I did PT for that injury, but I never got back to walking.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests? I love sports, so I usually tried to go to every Coastal Carolina sports game I could. I also love doing graphic design work. I have the Adobe package on my laptop, and I’ll design graphics for fun during my free time.

What do you like to do to stay active and what type of exercises work for you to stay strong? To stay active, I do lower body exercises and stretches that my therapist gave me to do at home to fight FA. For example, I’ll do sit to stand exercises with something in front of me to grab onto or I’ll stretch out my hamstrings and calves. I go to the gym to work out my upper body. There, I do dumbbell exercises, chest press, really any machines that my body will allow me to do. Finally, some days I’ll jump in my pool and swim laps.

What is a good trick to make daily life easier:  Make sure you get enough rest. FA is going to wear you out and make you tired, it does to me anyways, but don’t worry about taking a day off to rest. You have to let your body rejuvenate and you will feel much better.

When FA gets you down, what do you think/do to feel better: When FA gets me down, it’s usually because I’m thinking about the future. How am I going to function in the next couple weeks, months, or even years? One thing I think about/do to feel better is remind myself I’m living in the present. I tell myself that I’ve gotten over obstacles in the past and I will continue to get over obstacles that come my way, and I constantly repeat to myself that I can do it and that I’m a professional.

What is one way living with FA has POSITIVELY affected your life: One way living with FA has positively affected my life is it has led me to meet some amazing friends. I joined a fraternity my sophomore year at Coastal Carolina and met really cool friends that I get to call my brothers. I got to meet people my age with FA that share some of the same interests as I do. I’m in a group chat called Sports FAm where we all talk about our favorite teams in sports.What is a favorite motivational quote of yours: “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits” by Garrison Redd.

What piece of advice that someone with FA has given you that encourages and inspires you? Joey Mullaney has given me good advice on what leg exercises and other workouts I should be doing.

What is the best advice YOU could give to a person who has been newly diagnosed with FA: Don’t worry about what people think of you. Just be yourself and block out the haters.

What is the first thing you want to do when a cure/treatment for FA is found? I want to tell all of my family and friends.

“I have FA but FA doesn’t have me.” What does this statement mean to you? How do you live your life in the face of adversity? To me, this statement means Duncan Collins was diagnosed with FA, but FA was not diagnosed with Duncan Collins. FA cannot and will not control me. Even though I have FA, FA is not going to rule over my life. It is not going to be in charge of my daily routine. It is not going to tell me what I can and can’t do. I live my life in the face of adversity by following this motto: no excuses find solutions. My mom taught my sister and I that quote, and it absolutely applies to my life. I can’t sit around trying to place blame on why something happened. I have to find a solution to why that thing happened and go from there because nothing will get accomplished if you look for excuses.Tell us a little more about you: I belong to a family of four. My dad, mom, older sister, and me. My sister is about to start her second year in medical school, and she recently got married. Our entire family are big Green Bay Packers fans. In 2019, I had a MakeAWish opportunity to go meet the Packers. I love baseball as well, and I’m a big Atlanta Braves fan.

Interviewed by
Noah Griffith