More MS news articles for May 2000

Activist, 85, overcomes obstacles to help others
 
Published Thursday, May 11, 2000, in the Miami Herald
 
BY GARIOT LOUISNA
Herald Writer
 
For 20 years, Estelle Witz-ling-Moskowitz's world has been the living room of her 14th-floor condominium on Bayshore Drive in Northeast Miami.
 
Left virtually paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, the recently retired clinical psychologist hasn't left her bed for much of that time, but still manages to conduct business and lead a life that is even more active than that of her contemporaries.
 
"Each day I make an agenda," said Witzling-Moskowitz, 85. "I never get finished with it."
 
Witzling-Moskowitz said her home has a revolving door.
 
Friends are always stopping by. New people are constantly coming over to meet her and interview her.
 
For more than 50 years, she has been the moderator of a women's discussion group that meets every Thursday in her living room.
 
Seven years ago she created Phoenix Forever, a quarterly newsletter for homebound seniors and their caregivers.
 
The newsletter's theme is simple, she said: "One can be confined and still live a very rich and fulfilling life."
 
That, too, has been the running theme of Witzling-Moskowitz's fight with multiple sclerosis.
 
From her bed she coordinates with writers, the publishers at Temple Israel of Greater Miami and her managing editor.
 
The newsletter covers a range of topics, from spirituality and cultural diversity to accessing library resources from home.
 
Though she stopped seeing patients three years ago and can hardly move from the spot on her bed, things haven't slowed down much, Witzling-Moskowitz said.
 
And that's how she intends to keep it.
 
"If one's mind remains intact, one can live a really exciting and rewarding life," she said.
 
Olga Bennette met Witz-ling-Moskowitz 10 years ago through a mutual friend, a woman who was attending Witzling-Moskowitz's weekly discussion group.
 
"People come there and forget that she hasn't left her bed in over ten years," Bennette said. "They say things like, `Oh, you know, you never get sick, or you've been everywhere.' "
 
It's easy for people to forget that the only sights Witzling-Moskowitz has seen for the past two decades have been her antique-style living room furniture and her television screen.
 
Even the ocean view outside her living room window is something she hasn't seen since 1979.
 
She rarely ever talks about what she can't do. She's resigned to the fact that she may never see the view out her window again.
 
"She makes sure her needs are met, but once they're taken care of, her thoughts are for other people," said close friend Lynn Solte.
 
Solte met Witzling-Moskowitz two years ago when both attended a Christmas party in Witzling-Moskowitz's building.
 
That was one of the last times Witzling-Moskowitz was able to get into her wheelchair.
 
"She doesn't move physically, but she does intellectually and emotionally and that's why people are attracted to her," Solte said.
 
Said Witzling-Moskowitz: "You can go under and allow it to become a negative thing. As a psychologist I couldn't do that."
 
Witzling-Moskowitz learned she had multiple sclerosis in 1962; she was in her 40s and in private practice with her late husband in Miami.
 
Her husband died in 1986. She has a daughter, a psychiatrist in Pennsylvania, who asked her to move there. But the mother said no because she didn't want to lose her autonomy, she said.
 
Witzling-Moskowitz said her understanding of the human psyche has helped her to rebuild her life when all the odds were against her.
 
In the late '70s she literally hit bottom when she suffered a major allergic reaction to a drug prescribed to treat her multiple sclerosis.
 
Today, she reflects upon that year and laughs, because her outlook has changed completely, and rarely ever does she brood over her plight.
 
She has accepted it and is working to help others accept their condition. 

"I'm old, but I don't feel old," Witzling-Moskowitz said. "I feel as if I'm on the brink, like wonderful things are about to happen and they still are."