February 10, 2002
By BRIAN S. SCHUBERT, Staff Writer
NEWINGTON -- This Valentine's Day, Tom and Susan Raimondo will celebrate the 12th anniversary of their engagement.
Tom Raimondo, 37, suffers from multiple sclerosis, a chronic, often disabling disease that randomly attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness or tingling to paralysis and blindness.
Tom, an engineer originally from Rhode Island, was diagnosed with a "mild case" of MS in 1988. He was working in the Springfield area on a hotel project in 1989 when, after speaking with the MS society's Mass. chapter, he learned about a week-long getaway for the MS community in Connecticut.
Vacation Week is designed to get MS sufferers, their friends and families together to enjoy the company of those who understand the daily rigors of MS. It's also meant to give caretakers a respite. The getaway is held annually at Camp Hemlocks in Hebron, Conn.
"What the hell," Tom said. "I took a chance and I went."
While enjoying the barbecues, campfires and everything else suitable to the a vacation in the great outdoors, Tom met Susan, an MS Society volunteer who eventually became the Conn. Chapter's community programs director.
Susan, 36, doesn't have MS, but her mother suffered with MS and eventually died of its complications.
In what Susan described as a "phenomenally magical week," the two planted the seed that told them this one might be for keeps.
Referring to a love poem he wrote her at the end of the week, Tom joked: "Maybe it was the Robert Frost in me."
With Tom still working on a hotel project in Springfield, the two carried on a long-distance relationship until Valentine's Day 1990. Then, with some difficulty, Tom got down on one knee in a hotel's presidential suite and popped the question. It impressed Susan.
They wed in May 1991.
Susan, a Newington native, and Tom moved into a Newington home specially built to accommodate his needs in 1994.
His disease worsened over time.
Tom is now in a motorized wheelchair, and his illness hospitalized him recently. But it didn't keep him from enjoying the Patriots' Super Bowl victory -- he's a fan from way back.
The pair said the aid of many friends and a close family helps them manage day-to-day, but their long-term success comes from their faith, love, and outlook. "He shows living with MS is possible," Susan said. "We go with the flow and make adjustments as needed." "Tom is the most positive person I've ever known," she said.
Vacation Week 2002 is set for Sept.
©The Herald 2002