Jan 28, 2002
IDA CHIPMAN Tribune Correspondent
Patti Bates last week took delivery of her first electrically powered wheelchair and submitted her letter of retirement to the Plymouth Community Schools Board of Trustees.
After 29 1/2 years in the education profession, Bates, 55, decided that for health reasons she will retire at the end of the school year.
The coordinator of the Plymouth Community Schools Title I and the Gifted and Talented programs, Bates supervises the $300,000 federal grant that gives more than 200 Plymouth school children the additional help they need in reading and mathematics.
Regarding President Bush's recent education initiative, Bates said, "I think we all want the same thing. We want our children challenged and continually learning. Making everyone accountable for learning is important. That means schools, parents and students, all accept responsibility. The planned flexibility of funding may be helpful in this effort."
Bates herself is "challenged and continually learning."
She has multiple sclerosis (MS). She was diagnosed 15 years ago.
"I thought I had a pinched nerve in my neck," she said. "It came on just before spring break. I went to the doctor, used hot compresses, visited a chiropractor ... everything. It was driving me crazy!"
She told of how while en route to Florida to go on a cruise with five other couples, she experienced a tightness under her ribs that "felt like a tourniquet was being squeezed around my body."
They stopped at a Georgia hospital's emergency room. The doctor gave her some Valium "for her nerves."
"By the end of the week," Bates said, "I couldn't write my name, but I still thought I had a pinched nerve affecting my body."
Her right arm was noticeably numb soon after the Bates returned from their trip. Scared, she called her sister, a nurse. She described the symptoms; her sibling told her to get to a doctor. Immediately.
The physician told Bates that she had had a stroke, a tumor, or some other serious problem. He sent her to Parkview Memorial Hospital in Fort Wayne.
After a week of extensive tests, the medical team found nothing.
Shortly after her hospital discharge, Bates' gross motor skills were altered. She couldn't walk.
Back for another week of more tests, including an MRI and an eye exam.
On Good Friday, the doctors told her that they were "99 percent sure" that she had multiple sclerosis.
"I was devastated," Bates said. "My first question was 'what about my girls?' "
Dan and Patti, who married in 1968, have two daughters. They were 14 and 12, at the time. Both Patti and Dan Bates graduated from Indiana State University and both earned doctorates in 1983.
" I am convinced that this is part of God's plan. I have been able to show people that this disease is not the end of the world," Patti said.
"So many people are worse off than me. I had many years of remission. For the first five years I didn't show any signs. I have held a full-time job for 15 years and have learned to listen to my body. When I am tired, I rest."
People diagnosed with M.S. now, Bates said, have many treatment options.
"They need to seek treatment before they show major signs of trouble. Many of the options slow the progression of the disease. "The cure may be just around the corner."
Bates this past spring started horse therapy with the Special Friends Therapeutic Horse Riding Stables, operated by Bonnie Schultz in Inwood.
"I love it," she said.
Horseback riding is good for balance and leg and arm muscles are strengthened during the doctor-approved program.
"I am not going to sit at home," Patti said, determinedly. "There are many things I can do in my field of expertise and I intend to do them."
There's even the prospect of authoring children's books in her future.
Whatever it is, Patti Bates wants
to continue to contribute to make life for others better.
(C) 2002 South Bend Tribune