All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for November 2003

Man finds a new vision for his life

Mechanic helps raise funds for MS Society after disease leaves him temporarily blind

30th October, 2003
Mary Swift
King County Journal

At 33, J.R. Nagy had the perfect life.

He had a good job.

He had a happy family.

And he had a hobby he loved -- working as team engineer for RTG Limited, a BMW racing team headed by Bellevue's Mike Helton.

Then, one morning last April, J.R. woke up blind, unable to see the picture on his TV screen."I didn't think that much of it at the time," J.R. says. "At the time, I'd scratched my eye at work and the doctor had dilated them. I just thought it was a bad reaction."

In the hours that followed, J.R.'s eyesight worsened.

"He could see a form walk across the room, but he couldn't tell if it was me or my father," Suzanne Nagy says.

Worried, they called the optometrist J.R. had been seeing. The doctor saw them that night.

Take a few days, he advised, it will probably be OK. But just in case, he referred them to a neurologist.

What followed were a spinal tap, an MRI, blood tests, three steroid injections and an appointment with a second neurologist.

On April 16, the phone rang at the Nagys' Auburn home.

It was the doctor -- with a diagnosis: Multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is a neurological disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord causing progressive degeneration. Symptoms range from vision loss to fatigue, numbness and muscle weakness. It is unpredictable. Symptoms may occur, then fade, only to reoccur later.

For the Nagys the diagnosis came as a relief.

"We were thinking brain tumor," Suzanne says. "When we got that call, it was actually a huge weight off our shoulders."

If the weight was lifted, frustrations remained. J.R. required help for the most minor of activities -- from getting dressed to brushing his teeth. He missed his 1½- year-old son Mason's first Easter egg hunt. He missed practices for the dance he was scheduled to perform with his 6-year-old daughter, Morgan, at her recital.

His eyesight would eventually improve.

It would be two months before J.R., the German-born son of two BMW employees, could return to work as an auto technician at Auburn Foreign Car. It would be longer than that before his doctor would finally clear him to drive.

Suzanne spent the two months J.R. was off work "doing everything I could to find out anything I could," she says. She researched on the Internet. She went to the library.

"I brought home 24 books in a single day and had everything else related to MS on hold," she says. "When there's nothing you can do you do everything you can that you think can help. Getting the diagnosis was one thing. Learning about MS was the next step."

Nagy now takes a special drug, Copaxone, to prevent further occurrences and, hopefully, avoid more damage to his body.

"That's a lifetime thing. I'll stay on that until they find a vaccine," he says.

These days, J.R. is back at work at Auburn Foreign Car --and back serving as team engineer for RGT Limited.

On Dec. 6-7, the team will participate in the 25-Hours Of Thunderhill at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, Calif. The nonstop race, around a three-mile track, is the longest endurance race in the United States. The six drivers who will share time behind the wheel are covering race expenses. Instead of seeking sponsorships for the race, the team is asking for donations to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Donors who contribute $100 or more will have their names placed on the car for the event.

The race isn't the first fund-raiser J.R.'s experience has inspired.

Last May, his daughter sold lemonade, doughnuts, muffins, pop and water during the neighborhood garage sale. She raised $220, donating half to a neighbor coordinating the Relay for Life. The remaining money is being used to cover some of the postage of the current effort to raise money for the MS Society.

And, about that dance recital -- the one with all those practices J.R. missed: Last June, when Morgan and the other little girls in her class took to a stage in Sumner dressed in their purple tutus, their dads were there to dance with them.

And so was Nagy.

He couldn't see more than two feet in front of him, he says.

But he could see everything that mattered at that moment. He could see Morgan.

"She was smiling and looking up at me," he says. "It was awesome. It put tears in my eyes."

He wasn't alone.

"The whole audience was crying when they did that," she says, "and so was I."


To donate to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, make checks payable to NMSS. If you desire to have your donation benefit the Puget Sound area chapter, mark it "locally restricted." Checks may be mailed to Suzanne Nagy, PMB 325, 1402 Lake Tapps Parkway E., Ste. 104, Auburn, 98092-8157.

For information on multiple sclerosis, contact the Greater Washington Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at 800-800-7047.

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