All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for November 2002

MS Patient Deals with Uncertainties of Disease

Juanita Roberson Doesn't Like the Idea That She Needs An Electric Wheelchair But She Accepts It

Oct 27, 2002
Cynthia Jeffries
Staff Writer
Greensboro News and Record

Every morning is a surprise and every surprise could mean a loss of independence.

Since Juanita Roberson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 16 years ago, her body has gone through many changes. One day, she woke up and was having difficulty seeing. A few days later, she could see fine. It fluctuates.

In 1994, she decided that it would be best if she stopped driving. For a woman who liked living on her own and doing things herself, it was a hard decision. But Roberson, 43, said she stopped driving for her safety as well as that of others. She had gotten to a point where she couldn't move her foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal fast enough, and she feared she would have an accident.

Recently, her legs gave out. After years of trying to walk without the aid of anything, she finally had to concede that she needed help. At first it was a cane. Then it was a walker. Occasionally, she would use a manual wheelchair to get around.

"She has a wonderful spirit," says her mother, Ruth Roberson, 63. "She was off-and-on being in a wheelchair for years."

It stopped being "off" two years ago.

Juanita Roberson is the oldest of two children born to Ruth and Harold Roberson, 67. During her teenage and early adult years, she thought she was just clumsy or crazy. She fell a lot, and she was in pain a lot. She kept visiting doctors, but they couldn't find anything wrong. She kept falling.

Roberson also went to college and got a teaching degree. She was licensed to work with special-education students. She worked at a private school for a while, but eventually gave that up because it required a lot of standing. She then worked for the post office as a clerk. Eventually, she gave that up, too, because of the disease, she says.

Now, the disease has dealt her another surprise - her arms aren't as strong as they used to be. Although Medicaid has turned down her request for disability support, a decision that she is appealing, she has conceded that she needs more help.

Roberson gave up her home and moved in with her parents two years ago. But they are getting older and can't help her get around like they used to. Moving from her bed to the passenger seat of her parent's Oldsmobile so she can go to a water aerobics class is a test of wills and a test of patience.

"You know what MS stands for don't you, I mean the real name of the disease?" Roberson says with a noticeable smile in her voice. "My dad says it stands for 'Moving Slow' because he has never seen anyone move as slow as I do. I say it stands for 'Multiple Surprises,' because I never know what I'm going to wake up to."

To deal with her most recent surprise, Roberson's family and Christ's Way Church have started holding fund-raisers to get Roberson an electric wheelchair and to adapt a van her parents have purchased for wheelchair-accessibility.

The fund-raising campaign began Oct. 5, Roberson's birthday, with a gospel concert at the church that raised more than $2,000. An electric wheelchair costs about $7,500, said Darrel Kroeze, the pastor of Christ's Way. Van modifications cost $18,000. Her parents took out a second mortgage to buy the $30,000 van.

Kroeze says that in the past, the church has depended on its Compassion Fund to help meet a need. But this need is too big to be handled in-house.

"We are doing our best," he said.

Contact Cynthia Jeffries at 373-7318
© 2002 Greensboro News and Record