March is MS Awareness Month
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) attacks the nerves and interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body. It’s an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, with symptoms ranging from pain, numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis.
Most people are diagnosed with it between the ages of 20 and 50, with more than twice as many women than men having it. As best we know, it affects over 400,000 in this country and 2.1 million people in the world.
Over the many years I’ve been a volunteer with the Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National MS Society – helping to get the word out on this terrible disease and advocating for funds for research from state and federal officials – I’ve often been asked what led to my involvement with it.
My usual answer is that I became involved when my wife, Elaine, was first diagnosed with MS in 1968. Facing it, as a young family with four children under the age of six, became the biggest challenge of our lives. Elaine had become aware of MS, and the toll it can take on a person and a family, at age 6 when she met her soon-to-be best friend in the first grade in 1944. This friend’s mother had been crippled for many years with MS.
I could also say, in a way, that I became involved with MS in the first grade when I met my best friend, George. He was later diagnosed with MS at age 62.
George and I attended the same high school and roomed together in college. One of our friends in high school was Jack who became a noted neurologist specializing in the treatment of MS at the Cleveland Clinic – Elaine and George were among his patients.
Not long after Elaine was diagnosed, my friend, Dick, told me about his wife and the problems she was having – so similar to Elaine’s that I recommended her doctor to his wife. She too was diagnosed with MS. She became crippled as the disease progressed. Later a young lady, who I worked with, told me of her mother and her aunt who were both crippled with MS.
Also along the way, a friend of my sister’s, the sister of a salesman who called on me, a young lady at church and an attorney friend were added to my roster of MS friends and acquaintances. In addition are hundreds more MS friends I’ve met as an MS volunteer.
None of this makes me that unusual regarding this disease. Chances are that you know someone with MS, too. There’s also a chance that you know someone with it who doesn’t know they have it as they struggle with various symptoms that may come and go. Someone had to point out to George that he seemed to be walking funny before he was even aware that anything was wrong.
Whenever I meet someone who learns of my MS work, they often tell me of someone they know with the disease. Ohio has over 20,000 known cases of MS – one of the highest rates of the disease in the country – which why we have this special month: to reach out throughout the state with information and help where needed.
There is no cure for MS. However there are drugs – developed from the research we constantly seek – that can slow the progression of the disease. This makes it all the more important that MS be diagnosed as soon as possible. The more aware people are of the symptoms of MS, the better they, or their friends will be.
Information is available through the Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National MS Society at www.MSohiobuckeye.org or by calling 800-344-4867.
You also may be able to help us fight MS – with your prayers, your donations and/or your participation in our annual fundraising events:
- Walk MS: Cleveland is scheduled for Saturday, April 10, at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Sponsor a walker or walk with sponsors’ support.
- The MS Walleye Fishing Tournament will be held June 9 at Midway Marina in Port Clinton.
- Bike MS: Pedal to the Point is scheduled for August 14-15. Sponsor a biker or take this great ride from Middleburg Heights to Sandusky with support of friends.
- If you like to run, you can turn any event you enter into Run MS by using it to get sponsors for your run (always makes those miles go faster.)
Thank you very much for your support.
Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.