Pittsboro woman with degenerative condition trying to camp across the country with husband

PITTSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — When people say the words “for better or worse” most think, or at least hope, that the “worse” is a long way away.

For one Pittsboro couple, they knew the “worse” is now and every day after. They still chose to be together.

Harrison Hill and Rachel Manring (Family photo)
Harrison Hill and Rachel Manring (Family photo)

“She holds me up and I hold her up. It’s just how it is, you know” said Harrison Hill.

It’s the path Hill and his wife Rachel chose to take together when he could have chosen to say no.

“I couldn’t live without his support. I couldn’t do it” Rachel said.

From early childhood, the signs were there. It wasn’t until her late teens that Rachel Manring found out why she was having so many problems with her motor skills.

Annalee McWilliams went to high school with Rachel and said that “…watching her degenerate…it’s very, very sad to see that happening to her.”

Rachel has Friedreich’s Ataxia. It’s a rare inherited or single-gene disorder that attacks the central nervous system.

Harrison explained what it’s like for him to watch his wife go through the day-to-day battle.

“I know she’s struggling so much. She’s trying to fight so hard to not let these things happen to her. There’s no stopping it. There’s no stopping the disease from progressing at all,” he said.

After losing their home, the couple lives in a tent in a rural and cluttered yard in between staying with friends and family.  Rachel and Harrison have no complaints about their living conditions. The couple sees it as an adventure. They both love to travel and their dream is to camp across the country before Rachel becomes completely immobile.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, most people with FA become bed-bound, they lose their ability to swallow and heart disease is the most common cause of death. Rachel has already had two heart attacks.

“There are still things out there that I want to see and things that I will do regardless” Rachel said. “I used to focus solely on the future. It sucks. And I realized that that kept me from living each day to the fullest that I could.”

“She wants to get out and do things in life while she is still able to, and not just able to, but able to enjoy them,” Harrison said.

In Rachel’s mind, that for better or worse promise has, so far, been more “better” than “worse.”

“People ask me a lot of the time would I change it and my answer is no I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t change it. If I could walk again I wouldn’t. Because without the wheelchair I wouldn’t have been able to see life the way that I have and I wouldn’t have learned things that I have,” Rachel said.

Rachel and Harrison love camping and have made it their goal to camp across the country while Rachel still can.

To learn more about Rachel and her quest to camp across the country you can go to her GoFundMe page.

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