Says she plans to run for
By Mary Ann Holley
Sheboygan Press staff
It was about 5 o'clock ion a mid-January evening when Sheboygan County Sheriff Loni Koenig noticed a tingling numbness in her left arm. When the tingling continued, waking her in the night, her husband, Mike, took her to the hospital emergency room.
"My husband thought it was a stroke," Koenig said. "Frankly, I smoke and I drink cocktails; I'd be more prone to a heart attack or stroke, but I never thought of MS."
Last month, Koenig issued a memo to those on staff with the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department disclosing that she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis Û a chronic, potentially debilitating disease that affects the brain and central nervous system.
She had served on the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department since 1981 as a road officer and detective before being elected sheriff nearly four years ago.
Koenig said she plans to continue in her position and to run for re-election in the fall.
"I talked to the doctor about the stress factor, but we both agreed that I'd be much more stressed sitting at home," she said. "There are days when you do feel sad, but you go on."
Randy Boeldt, Elkhart Lake police chief, has announced in early January that he would try for the Republican nomination. Lt. Mike Helmke of the sheriff's department plans to run as a Democrat.
A MRI performed Jan. 22 indicated that Koenig has relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. In this type, one or two flare-ups of MS occur every 1 to 3 years, followed by periods of remission. The flare-ups typically appear suddenly, last a few weeks or months, then gradually disappear.
"I remember that first day, but not much else," Koenig said. "I know though that I never said, Îwhy me'. I have a really positive attitude, and I feel fine Û pretty good."
Last week, she and Mike and daughter Abby, 7, traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for a second opinion. Mayo confirmed the first doctor's diagnosis.
"I was surprised at the number of people in Sheboygan County that have MS," Koenig said. "I was like everyone else; I didn't really take the time to understand the disease, but it's not the end of the world."
Koenig said she believes in being honest about the disease, and in discussing her condition openly.
"Even now, I feel when you learn more about it, you feel better about it," Koenig said. "You get to know all sides. When you don't know anything, you assume MS is totally debilitating."
You can carry on, Koenig said.
"I always want my daughter to think she can do anything in life," Koenig said. "What would she do if she saw me sitting around? She needs to know you can carry on."
Since Koenig's diagnosis, she hasn't missed time from work, except for her trip to the Mayo clinic. One flare-up (the hand numbness) occurred in mid-January, and a second about two weeks ago, but doctors believe it is all one incident, Koenig said.
Her neurologist, Dr. Tom Zweifel of Sheboygan, explained that to diagnose MS, a patient's medical history is reviewed and an MRI is performed to determine "scars" on the brain or spinal cord.
At Mayo, doctors found six to eight lesions on Koenig's brain and spinal cord.
"When I look back, I can remember two years ago having tingling and a lot of things," she said. "You can almost remember the first incident."
Koenig says no one can tell you what you're future holds. MS does not affect one's mental ability, and even in the worse-case scenario, she said, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran the White House from a wheelchair.
It's like the doctor told my husband: "The only difference between you
and your wife is that she knows what's wrong with her," Koenig said.
Copyright ©2001 The Sheboygan Press