May 29, 2001
By EMILY STANDER, Telegram Staff Writer
COLUMBUS - It's all about living for today for Jean Knapp of Columbus.
"I don't have any long-range plans or long-range goals," Knapp said. "It's just do it when I can do it."
What and when she does things depends on how she feels.
Knapp has multiple sclerosis, which forced her to quit her job a few years ago as a personal care provider through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. She was diagnosed with the degenerative disease of the central nervous system in 1986. About three years ago, she had problems with the symptom of fatigue.
"I had to think about what to do with my life, because I couldn't physically work anymore," Knapp said.
But Knapp considers herself fortunate because she hasn't had any hospitalizations.
The MS diagnosis helped Knapp redraw her priorities, which now include volunteering at Columbus Community Hospital Inc., West Park Elementary School and Peace Lutheran Church.
But because of fatigue associated with MS, Knapp sticks to a schedule that won't wear her out too much.
"I have to be careful that I don't overdo it, because the fatigue can get difficult to manage," she said.
Knapp pulls two shifts a week at the CCH Information Desk, where she has been a volunteer for more than two years. At Peace Lutheran Church, in addition to volunteering where needed, her main responsibility is helping with the Mopettes, children of the MOPs group, where she has volunteered for three years.
The MOPs, or Mothers of Preschoolers, meet once a month to have a program and a break from the kids together. Knapp said her charges are the 1-year-old children.
"We play with them, and try to keep them happy while their mothers have a break," she said.
Knapp has been a volunteer at the West Park school library for three years, she said. She helps students check out books by working with the scanning equipment. Knapp also shelves books when she has time.
Because the media specialist at the school teaches classes, Knapp said that during her shift at the school, she helps keep the library open. But she said she is unsure about her volunteer work at the school next year, since a paraeducator will be working full time there.
"I like books," Knapp said. "I've always talked about how I was going to work in a library," she said, with a laugh.
Knapp's considering looking into volunteering at the public library, she said.
She volunteers because she has the time, and her projects give her a purpose - to do things to help others. Since numbness in her feet is another symptom of her MS, Knapp said she can do just about anything if she can sit down. But she has to "stay cool," she said, laughing, and not overtax herself.
Knapp also stays busy with several hobbies, which are evident in the cheerful apartment she shares with her husband, Rollen. Books sit by the couch, needlework is in the corner, a half-completed jigsaw puzzle sits on a card table, and Knapp's completed projects hang on the walls and sit on shelves. She always has two or three projects going at once. Her hobbies include reading, jigsaw puzzles, playing the keyboard, needlepoint, cross stitch, and cruel embroidery, which uses yarn instead of embroidered thread or floss, to make projects look thicker.
And she can also take some of her hobbies on the road to her volunteer jobs. Sometimes she does needlepoint with plastic canvas at the hospital when there's a slow time. One of her specialties is making needlepoint butterflies, a skill that she is thinking about using to make a memorial wreath for an upcoming family reunion.
Knapp said she'll try and stay active as long as she's able. She said she's grateful to God that she can live her life and manage fairly well.
"As long as I have the ability, I will try and do things wherever needed, wherever called upon. I don't say no very often," she said, laughing.
Though she said she has days when she just feels like watching television, reading or doing a needlework project, Knapp said she's doing things while she can.
"Because if I can't someday, I will have accomplished all these things," Knapp said.