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Man Refuses To Let MS Keep Him Down

October 22, 2011, 8:40 PM by Hailey Higgins

Man Refuses To Let MS Keep Him Down
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Hot air balloons are riding high in the Sioux Falls sky Saturday with one very special passenger - a man suffering from multiple sclerosis who spent much of the last two decades in bed or a wheelchair.

Twenty years ago, Jim Van Hulzen felt numbness in his leg and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The progressive disease forced the former truck driver to spend the last 18 years in bed or a wheelchair.

"You really can't do very much," Van Hulzen said. "I play a little bit with the computer but that's about it."

But for one hour, the wheelchair is set aside as he's lifted into the Sanford Children's Hot Air Balloon. Once in the air, he hovers over the city. The crew's waited since spring for the perfect conditions.

"In the case of Jim here now, what was really important was not only a very light wind, but cool temperatures. People with MS can't take a lot of heat so we have to wait for the fall months to do it," Sanford Children's Hot Air Balloon Pilot Orvin Oliver said.

Up high, Van Hulzen can sees the Big Sioux River, Augustana's Kirkeby-Over football stadium and even a couple of horses spooked by the balloon.

"You're floating and it's amazing. You don't have any good realization of how things were going," Van Hulzen said.

"I know it was special for Jim, but it was special for us to do it and it makes you feel really good you can do something like that for somebody else," Oliver said.

And now that he's safe back on Earth, Van Hulzen isn't letting his disease keep him grounded and says staying positive what helps him battle the disease.

"Oh well, you know, there are worse things," Van Hulzen said.

The Sanford Children's Hot Air Balloon is specifically designed to hold people with disabilities. The balloon and the basket are bigger, which can hold more weight. Benches are also built in with straps to hold passengers inside the basket.



© 2012 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.

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