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MS affects the entire family

Gary Lindstrom

My wife, Lynne, lives in Boulder. She resides in room 411 of Terrace Heights Care Facility. She has multiple sclerosis.

Lynne is a Colorado native and spent the first 18 years of her life in Lakewood. All things considered, that is a bad thing. The incidence of multiple sclerosis in Colorado is 300 times that of any other state. No one knows why.

It also is more common in women. Eighty-five percent of MS victims are women. According to the Colorado MS Society, if a woman moves out of Colorado before age 15, her risk level drops back to the national norm.

There also is a correlation established with the 40th parallel. There is a higher rate of MS along the 40th parallel all around the world. The 40th parallel in Colorado runs along Baseline Road in Boulder.

MS is a terrible disease. In simple terms, the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin cover on the nerves. Multiple sclerosis means “many scars.” The scars occur when the body attacks the myelin, removes the covering, and leaves a scar. Where there is a scar, the nerve short circuits and the message from the brain does not reach the muscle.

People with MS normally have healthy bodies, but the brain is unable to tell the muscles to work. The mind normally remains fully functional. A sharp mind in a body that does not work. Your own personal prison.

Lynne was diagnosed in 1984. As she found out more about the disease, she realized she had had problems most of her life. She did not do well with hand/eye coordination. Badminton gave her fits. She had trouble walking on rocks and gravel or on any uneven surface.

In 1979, she went blind. The doctors did not know what happened, and then her sight came back.

She did not have any more problems until 1984. She was in an exercise class and found that she could not stand on one leg. She went to the doctor, who referred her to a neurologist. Several CAT scans and a couple of MRIs later, she found out she had MS.

She was able to stay at home until August of 2000, when family and local medical care resources were no longer able to keep up with her needs.

A lifelong secondary schoolteacher, this past year she was able to volunteer in an elementary school in Boulder in its Special Education Program.

Currently she is teaching English to a young lady who just moved to Boulder from China. The lady will enter graduate school at the University of Colorado.

She has become an advocate for the rights of the residents in her facility. She holds regular meetings with the Boulder County Ombudsman and takes the concerns of the residents to the state of Colorado. She leads a weekly Bible study and is dearly loved by the residents and staff.

A nursing home is not a nice place to be. It is much like being in the hospital all of the time without having the nice parts. Much of being in a nursing home is simply being warehoused. A place to store human beings when they can’t be anywhere else.

MS afflicts not only the victim, it is a family disease. We all have it to a certain degree.

I am not sure what I would do if I were in Lynne’s situation. I do know she has managed to adapt to her condition and the result is she now is helping many people through her own adversity.

The MS Walk

– When: Saturday, May 11. Check-in 9 a.m., walk 9:30 a.m.

– Where: Start/finish: Marina Park, Lake Dillon; 4- or 8-mile loop

– Why: Money raised goes toward research for treatment of MS and clinical programs for patients.

– Add’l Info: Sponsored by the Colorado Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

To register, or to learn more about MS, call (800) FIGHT MS or check the Web site at http://www.fightms colorado.org

Gary Lindstrom is a Summit County commissioner and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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