Winston woman absorbs bee stings and other alternative therapies in effort to control her multiple sclerosis
BY McKENNA BRYANT
May 9, 2001
WINSTON — As Patty Adair dials Hornsby’s Winston Drug to refill a prescription, her hands shake and she nearly drops the phone. With a frustrated sigh, she grips the phone as best as she can and says, “Hi, this is Patty. Can you refill a prescription for me?”
Later, as she walks into the store to pick up her prescription, she is warmly greeted by customers and employees alike. “They know me by name,” the 39-year-old said. “The pharmacy is like my home.”
In most small towns like Winston, it’s pretty easy to get to know longtime customers by name. In Adair’s case, it’s easy to remember her because she’s often there to fill one or more of her numerous prescriptions.
In 1988, Adair was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She takes 17 different medications each day to ease her symptoms.
In addition to conventional medications and physical therapy, Adair has tried some experimental techniques.
“I’ve tried everything,” she said. “You name it, I’ve tried it.”
To most people, the spots on her forearms look like colorless freckles. But to Adair, they are proof that she’s a survivor.
“See these spots here?” she asks, pointing to her speckled arm. “That’s where I’ve been stung by bees.”
For the past two years, at the suggestion of her physical therapist, she has been stung by bees to help control her MS symptoms.
MS is a degenerative disease that destroys the protective myelin covering of nerve fibers in the central nervous system. This loss disrupts nerve transmissions and affects many functions of the body.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but Adair suffers from lack of control over her left foot and both hands. The bee stings have helped her regain some control over her hands.
To help her walk, she wears a brace to support her foot, which would “just flop around uselessly” without it.
But this brace is a bit unique. A friend painted a field of white flowers against a vivid blue sky on the back of it, which makes Adair smile every time she looks down.
“My friend painted it because she knows I’m not boring,” she said.
Adair’s family has lived in the Winston area since 1877, when her great-grandfather, William Bremner, built the family homestead. In 1918, Bremner’s daughter, Margaret, married Walter C. Adair and the property came under that name.
In 1983, Adair’s mother sold the property, but the Adair name lives on. A bridge near the home recently was named “Adair Bridge” in honor of the family. Douglas County officials placed signs on each side of the bridge and even gave one to Adair as a keepsake.
In March, Adair underwent the first in a series of chemotherapy treatments to control her MS symptoms.
“They say your hair will fall out,” she said as she ran her hand over the back of her wavy, light brown hair. “Mine has thinned, but so what? It’ll grow back.”
Since she was diagnosed, Adair has realized she really wants to help people. She can’t work or drive a car because of her condition, but she said she would like to educate others about MS and talk to others who have the disease.
“I want to do everything — I want to help people, learn more and take this one day at a time.”
She said she sometimes approaches sad-looking strangers and asks if they need a hug.
“I’m not shy. If they need a hug, I’ll give them one and say ‘God bless you.’”
Adair said she gave herself a week to feel sorry for herself when she was first diagnosed with MS, but she now tries to enjoy every minute of her life.
“Life is just too short to feel sorry for yourself,” she said. “I’m tough, but I’ve also got to have a sense of humor.”
She doesn’t like to talk about what might happen in the future, but keeps her mind open to the possibilities.
“I’m not afraid to die. When I go, I want everyone to be happy.”
• You can reach reporter McKenna Bryant at 957-4211, or by e-mail at McKenna_Bryant@oregonnews.com.