Wednesday, April 30th, 2003 02:34:28 PM
By GWEN SWANSON
The Daily Tribune
Dorothy Turnbloom knows full well the value of MS Walks held around the country.
In her home, she has a handicap-accessible shower. An air conditioner blows cool air in summertime. The stairs have a Stair Glide chair.
All of these aid her as she lives with multiple sclerosis. The MS Society paid for half the cost of these items — something the society will do for anyone with the disease.
While the exact cause of MS is unknown, most researchers believe the damage to myelin results from an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. It degrades the tissue around the nerves, causing scarring and delaying nerve responses.
She was diagnosed in Texas in 1985, after the birth of her second child.
“By the time I knew something was wrong, I had to wait until after the preganncy,” Turnbloom said.
She first noticed symptoms like tingling in her extremities, fatigue and falling down.
“I physically couldn’t do what I used to,” she said, noting she’d been very active, even running a marathon.
All the tests were borderline at first. MRI’s were just coming into use, and not readily available.
She and her family moved to Minnesota in 1987 and to Hibbing in 1997.
The disease has moved through her body, paralyzing her lower body and left arm, leaving only her right arm usable.
“It’s taken 18 years to get to this point,” Turnbloom said.
She credits faith, family and education with helping her live with the disease.
“God definitely has the final answer to it all,” she said.
Her husband Daniel has been the “Rock of Gibraltar,” she said, and her boys have grown into compassionate young men who help her out. Her dog, Harry, while not an “official” helper dog has been trained to bring Turnbloom her pillow when she’s tired and pick things up off the floor.
Turnbloom’s mother helped push her toward finding out information about MS and options and available technology. Nine brothers and sisters also volunteer for various MS causes, including the MS150 and MS75 events.
“In this day and age, MS is an inconvenience and sad — not running with the kids — but it shouldn’t alter your life to the point where you stay at home all the time,” Turnbloom said.
She’s proof of that — a volunteer at Leisure Hills Health Care Center, a church teacher and occasional MS Society volunteer. She also facilitates a support group in Hibbing.
“Like any unknown, fear is useless,” Turnbloom said. “Get in there, find out what the problem is, what you need to survive. Everybody’s got struggles. Everybody’s got fears and obstacles. There’s always someone there to help.”
Walks, like the one in Hibbing on Sunday, are important for her.
“It’s a celebration of life,” Turnbloom said. “It’s a fun social thing, and educational. Participants are making a diffence for someone they know or may not know.”
Also funded by the walks are support groups. Funding is bringing in a speaker on May 29 at the Hibbing Public Library. Peter Fiegel, a nationally known speaker who is dealing with MS and bipolar disorder, will speak to the group.
Support groups helped Turnbloom see changes she could make to strengthen and take better care of herself.
“We are there to encourage each other,” Turnbloom said. “To support and be supported.”
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is the largest private sponsor of MS-related research in the world with a cumulative investment of $350 million since 1947. Currently the MS Society spends $32 million per year on more than 300 MS investigations including studies on immunology, genetics, virology, gender and t-cells.
Though the official registration date has passed, anybody interested in participating is encouraged to gather pledges and bring them to the walk.
The walk starts and finish at the Mesabi Mall. Check-in is at 11 a.m. The event will be held rain or shine.
WHEN: Sunday, May 4. Registration begins at 11 a.m. with 1, 4 or 5 mile routes available.
WHERE: Mesabi Mall - begins and ends there.
Copyright © 2003, The Daily Tribune