Imagine if you needed to send a piece of mail to someone, but the simple act of addressing the envelope is impossible because your hand won’t work. Or your grandson starts Little League and you can’t throw and catch with him like you’d dreamed of. Imagine having to ask for help with every zipper and button, and not being able to walk across a room without help. These are things most of us take for granted, but for people living with Multiple Sclerosis, the daily struggle is their reality.
For our March project, Change Through Giving decided to join the Walk MS team of a fellow member, in support of her father who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010. The event took place on Saturday March 10th at Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando. For him, this mysterious disease came on strong and fast and has progressed quickly. It started with numbness in his legs and impairing his ability to walk, then stealing the use of his right arm, causing memory loss, extreme fatigue, stiffness, pain and significantly impairing his balance. At the young age of 53, he uses a walker and a wheel chair and like the millions of others affected by MS, he faces a lifetime filled with unpredictability and hardships.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies normal cells as foreign and acts them. In the case of MS, the target of the immune attack is myelin, the fatty tissue that surrounds and protects nerve endings. T-cells, which are one type of white blood cell in the immune system, become sensitized to myelin and cross the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system (CNS). Once in the CNS, these T-cells not only injure myelin, but secrete chemicals that damage nerve fibers and recruit more damaging immune cells to the site of inflammation. The resulting damaged scar tissue is called sclerosis, and occurs in multiple places throughout the body.
Scientists have not yet uncovered what exactly causes MS. We can fly to the moon, clone a sheep and Skype with our relatives halfway across the world, but we don’t know what causes Multiple Sclerosis and therefore we can’t stop it. The medicines that are available today – pills, injections, IV infusions – only work to decrease symptoms by slowing progression of the disease, but nothing can be done to repair the damage that has been done. This means that for our member’s father, the use of his legs and arms will never return. The medicines are also extremely expensive and some come with very scary risks.
The ladies of CTG chose to JOIN THE MOVEMENT, and on that Saturday, we walked for those who sometimes can’t. It felt good to be joined together with so many people in our community that are committed to supporting MS research. Our team raised $931.00 – The National Multiple Sclerosis Society will use funds collected from Walk MS to not only support research for a cure tomorrow, but also to provide programs which address the needs of people living with MS today. With another person being diagnosed every hour of every day, we have a huge fight on our hands!
To learn more about MS and how you can get involved, please visit the Mid Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/chapters/FLC/index.aspx