October 04, 2001
By Dori Moudry, News Editor
Ron Nicholson's interest in helping people with multiple sclerosis takes a new turn later this month when he serves as a facilitator for a new MS support group that will meet at Meeker County Memorial Hospital.
The first meeting, a get-acquainted
gathering, will be 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 in the hospital cafeteria.
Nicholson, a long-time high school counselor who also worked for Lutheran Brotherhood, recently completed facilitator training through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
His training took place at Courage North, which is connected to Camp Courage. Courage North is located at Lake George, between Itasca State Park and Bemidji.
Nicholson, 74, has been riding in the MS 150 bicycle marathon from Duluth to Anoka for the past 13 years.
"Because of my previous support, they looked to me to provide leadership," Nicholson said. "In order to lead, you're supposed to have MS, but they said if I would put in the time (for training) that would be overlooked."
The local support group is made possible through a community service grant from Hugh Wagner.
"Hugh Wagner donated $1,000 from a community service grant he was awarded," Nicholson explained. "I was asked by the multiple sclerosis society if I would accept the money on their behalf. Hugh wanted the money to go to support groups."
Nicholson has been active as a volunteer helping to fight MS for several years.
"My brother-in-law had MS, that's how I originally got involved," Nicholson said. "I wanted to help out, so I started riding to raise money for research and support."
A MS support group had existed in the area at one time, but gradually became inactive, he said.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system that tends to affect more women than men. About 333,000 Americans have MS, and about two-thirds are women.
The local support group meetings will be confidential, he said. One of the rules the MS Society goes by is "What we hear here, what we see here, what we say here, let it stay here!"
"Some people have lost their health insurance or their jobs," Nicholson said. "Divorce is not uncommon (for people who have MS). People need to feel free to say something and know it won't beat them down to the coffee shop before they get there."
The support group is for caregivers of people who have MS, as well.
"Caregivers often are overlooked," he said. "Most of the time, the primary caregiver is a family member - a spouse, a daughter or a mother."
Although Nicholson has been retired for a number of years, he has a full calendar as a volunteer.
"As far as volunteerism, I think you get more out of it than you put into it," he said.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.
Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, but the unpredictable physical and emotional effects can be lifelong.
The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted.
MS is thought to be an auto-immune disease.
The body's own defense system lacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord.
The damaged myelin may form scar tissue (sclerosis). Sometimes, the nerve fiber also is damaged. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses from the brain are damaged or interrupted.
Multiple sclerosis is not a fatal
disease. People with MS have normal or near-normal life expectancies, and
most people with MS learn to cope with the disease, living full, productive
©Independent Review 2001
©Independent Review 2001