Monday, March 1, 2004
When trying to cope with the effects of a devastating illness like Multiple Sclerosis, it's critical to have somewhere to turn for help.
That's why Mary Radtke founded the local MS Support Group twoyears ago. The group meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Superior Room, which is next to the cafeteria at Bay Area Medical Center.
The support group offers people afflicted with this disease of the nervous system a place where they can meet and talk with others battling the disease in a positive atmosphere.
"I realize not everybody is a group person," Radtke said. "I know myself, in the beginning, I thought, 'These are sick people. Do you want to go sit with sick people?' But this is such an upbeat group."
Radtke started the support group shortly after she was diagnosed with MS.
"I called the MS Society in Waukesha to get information about the disease," Radtke recalled. "I was asked if I was interested in getting into this, because there was no support group north of Green Bay. They sent me information about MS and how to get a group started."
Victims begin to show the symptoms of MS when they're between 25 and 45 years of age. Symptoms can include paralysis of the legs and a partial loss of vision.
MS is not life-threatening, but it can lead to complications from other health problems. The disease cannot be cured.
Radtke compared the symptoms of MS to a lamp cord that shorts out.
Like the electricity that is interrupted in the lamp cord, messages from the brain to parts of the body through the nervous system also short out.
Sometimes the messages get through correctly, sometimes they don't. When they don't, hands may cramp up or feet catch on the floor.
"Sometimes you can't grab onto something. Sometimes you can't climb up on a step stool and reach something," Radtke said. "You just sit down and think, 'Well, I'm not going to do that today.'"
People with advanced stages of the disease may be confined to wheelchairs.
To help cope with the problems caused by this disease, the MS Support Group offers sufferers and family members an opportunity to simply talk.
"We just compare notes," Radtke said. "We talk about what we're going to do on vacation. We talk about doctors. ... And we always have something to eat and drink. It's a social event too."
Occasionally speakers come to talk on subjects of interest to people suffering from MS.
The camaraderie of the group stretches into the daily lives of its members. "We ride with or drive each other to doctor's appointments," Radtke said. "We also celebrate birthdays and other occasions. I think we are truly a support group."
People suffering from MS are welcome to attend the next meeting Tuesday. For more information about the MS Support Group, people can call Radtke at 582-3351.
Radtke invites people who would like to help raise money to fight the
disease to sign up to participate in the annual MS Walk, which will be
held in Brown County on April 18. Registration and information about obtaining
pledges can be obtained by calling (800) 242-3358 or on the Internet at
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