More MS news articles for Dec 2001

Medicine box being marketed locally, produced in Ohio

Wednesday, December 26, 2001
By Patti Brandt
times writer

Matt Oelfke doesn't care if he ever makes any money on the MS Box he invented.

He just wants other people who have to take injectable medications to be able to have one.

Oelfke, 27, has multiple sclerosis and, like most people with the disorder, must inject himself with a medication to control the disease. The former construction worker likes order and wanted to keep all of his supplies in one place.

The now-patented MS Box does that, with compartments for medicines, syringes, alcohol swabs and a waste container for used needles. It even has a fold-down tray that can be used for getting the injections ready.

The box has a metal latch that can be padlocked to keep its contents safe, something that gives Oelfke, who has two small children, peace of mind.

He wants others to have that peace of mind.

About 600 of Oelfke's medicine boxes have been manufactured by Sauder Woodworking Co. of Ohio, a company that makes ready-to-assemble furniture, and are being sold by the Bay City-based Barco Specialties Inc.

So far, about 150 of the boxes, which sell for about $70, have been sold or given to people with MS or other medical conditions, many of whom have limited incomes and can't afford the box.

Most of the boxes were bought with money Oelfke and Barco Specialties have received through donations and grant money.

"Most people with MS are coming from a single-income family," Oelfke said. "From the beginning my goal has been to give everyone a box, and I'm trying to raise donations so I can give the box to people."

After a story that ran in The Times a year ago, he said, more than $4,000 was donated by the Bay area community. The money was used to give 15 local people an MS Box and to help pay start-up costs of manufacturing the box.

Donations to purchase a box for a local person who needs it can be made to Created for Caring, 400 N. Madison Ave. For every box that is purchased through Created for Caring, a $5 donation is given back to the agency.

In addition, for every box sold a $5 donation is given to the Montel Williams MS Foundation, which funds research for a cure. Williams, who hosts a daytime talk show, has MS.

Mark R. Duncan, co-owner of Barco Specialties, says the company sells unique or special niche products that larger corporations won't take on. Duncan and his partner, Dale Bash, thought the MS Box was a good enough idea to make a reality.

"We knew he couldn't get there on his own and we wanted to help him with that," Duncan said.

Although Duncan would like to see Oelfke make some money on the box some day, for now he said he has no expectations of a profit.

"We think this is a great cause," he said. "We know we'll never make any money off this and we're not in it to make any money. We're doing it because Matt is so passionate about this that he's inspired us."

MS patients who need a box and can't afford one should send their name, address and a brief description of themselves and their situation to Barco Specialties Inc., 333 Morton St., and the company will try to match them up with donated funds for a box.

The MS Box comes in a ready-to-assemble kit and is about 15 inches wide by 1 foot high by 1 foot deep and can be put together in about a half hour with just a screwdriver. It weighs about 20 pounds when empty and can hold about one to two months worth of supplies.

Oelfke was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in April 2000. The disease is progressive and attacks the myelin - a protective sheath surrounding the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. When the myelin or the nerve it protects is damaged, symptoms appear. Those symptoms can range from numbness and tingling to blurred or double vision and paralysis.

Oelfke, formerly of Bay City, now lives with his wife in Grand Blanc, where he stays home and takes care of their two boys, ages 2 years and 2 months. He also serves as a patient advocate for people with MS, helping to educate them or just give them support.

"A lot of people just want to know how I did it - how I manage to stay home with the kids. Hopefully, I try to make them feel a little better."

To see the box, go to To contact Oelfke with questions about MS or the MS box, e-mail him at

- Patti Brandt covers Bay County schools for The Times. She can be reached at 894-9673.

Copyright 2001 Michigan Live Inc.