Former sports car enthusiast Roger Schnabel misses driving but still logs about 5 miles a day on his three-wheel cycle despite his struggle with multiple sclerosis.
By JULIANNE WU
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001
CLEARWATER -- When he was younger, Roger Schnabel loved to race sports cars.
Now 60, he uses a motorized wheelchair or a tricycle to get around.
Schnabel, who lives in Clearwater, has multiple sclerosis. The active volunteer is the local honoree at Saturday's MS Walk at Coachman Park. It is one of five MS walks being held Saturday in Florida, sponsored by the Mid-Florida Chapter of the MS Society.
Schnabel is a Detroit native and worked as a computer programmer in Ohio. The father of four grown daughters in Ohio, he moved to Florida in 1987.
Schnabel began noticing symptoms when he was in his late 20s. He began stumbling and his speech became slurred.
"The doctors thought it was a tumor at first," he said.
But eight doctors and 10 tests later, it was determined to be multiple sclerosis.
Although MS most often strikes people in their 20s, "it can strike people as young as 8 and those in their 60s," Schnabel said.
Difficulty walking generally is the first problem. Loss of vision, double vision, loss of balance and weakness in an arm or a leg also may occur. Numbness or tingling in the fingers and problems of coordination also are common. The disease, which attacks the nervous system, will continue to cause worsening complications. There is no cure.
Schnabel had to stop driving when he moved to Florida.
"That's what I miss the most," said Schnabel, who now gets around his neighborhood across from the Countryside Mall in a motorized wheelchair.
For other things, such as doctor appointments or MS meetings he coordinates and attends in Dunedin, Largo and St. Petersburg, he uses a wheelchair-transport service.
He can stand briefly to wash or dry his clothes in his mobile home. He eats mostly TV dinners or goes out occasionally with friends.
Right now, he said, he manages to get around okay.
"But I know I'm getting worse," he said. "My eyesight is failing and I don't have the stamina I once had."
Schnabel said he likes to read library books, but soon will turn to audio and video books.
He still bikes about 5 miles a day around the mobile home park and swims in the pool "when it's warm enough."
Schnabel has some advice for people who have aches and pains or other symptoms they can't explain: "Go to a doctor right away. Now, with MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), they can find MS so much faster. Then keep doing the things you can do and plan for the future, when you won't be able to do some things."