March 29, 2003
The only multiple sclerosis clinic in the Tri-State has now been open for seven months.
The clinic has had a few changes, including its location. Now its staff is hoping more MS patients will take advantage of what it has to offer. The Healthsouth Multiple Sclerosis Clinic has all the services an MS patient needs under one roof.
"I'm just glad they're here to help me," patient Mel Dickson Jr. said.
He has had MS for years. But he's not sure for how long before he was diagnosed. He thought his back was the problem---he even had back surgery.
His walking didn't improve, so he had his legs and knees examined.
Finally, with a suitcase full of years of medical charts and doctors' letters, Dickson's health condition led him to the Cleveland Clinic in 1999.
That's where he was finally diagnosed with MS.
"I'm just glad to know what's wrong with me so I know what to do," Dickson said.
He has the progressive form of MS, where it just gradually gets worse.
"It's the kind you don't want to think about," Dickson said. "I don't want that. I'd rather have a cold or pneumonia or something they can give me a shot or pill for and put me back out on the street."
For treatment, Dickson receives an Avonex shot once a week and works out at the Healthsouth MS Clinic three times a week.
"It's important," physical therapist Donna Lane said, "because it's the only way to slow the progression of the disease."
This therapy program strengthens Dickson's muscles that continue to grow weak from MS.
"Last year, I really began to show that I was losing strength," he said. "I would go to pick something up and just take for granted that my strength was there."
With this clinic being available for all MS patients in the Tri-State, Dickson feels it's an advantage for the community, so no one will have to follow in his footsteps of spending years of searching for a diagnosis and traveling long distances for treatment.
MS medications are expensive. Avonex costs $1,000 a month, but it is the only MS medication covered by Medicare.
Dickson's wife has been an advocate for helping him and other Tri-State
MS patients find out what they need to do to get Medicare coverage for
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