More MS news articles for Sep 2001

Ceremony raises awareness, over $200,000 for MS research

Published Tuesday, September 11, 2001

It was the kind of event where Ann Thomas felt at ease.

As she glided her wheelchair around the fifth floor of the JW Marriott Hotel on Brickell Avenue, she was surrounded by people who were attending the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Hope Award ceremony Monday night. The event honored community leaders and helped raise money for research of the very disease she's been living with for 15 years.

"I've had a very exciting life," said the former attorney. "A huge part of this disease is adapting to the the changes. I've been fortunate to meet some of the most exciting people I would never have met had I not had this disease."

More than 300 of Miami's movers and shakers -- including award recipients John Henry, Florida Marlins owner, and Alberto Ibargüen, The Miami Herald publisher -- were on hand to raise more than $200,000 toward research.

At least 400,000 Americans and 40,000 Florida residents have MS, a chronic and often disabling disease of the nervous system. There is no cure.

Henry said he was surprised by the honor and grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness about the disease.

Ibargüen, whose mother lived with the disease for 12 years before she died, said he, too, was flattered by the award.

"I only wish my mother had been able to receive all the information and treatment that is now available," he said.

While fundraising is a key aspect in helping to fight the disease, Florida Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher, urged physicians to pay close attention for the subtle symptoms of the disease, such as numbness in the limbs.

He said a misdiagnosis often leads to more suffering for those who don't know they have MS.

Thomas, 55, who for years said she had numbness, went blind before she realized she had been afflicted.

Thomas is featured in the society's new ad campaign that was unveiled at the ceremony. She said she wants people to know that life goes on, even when the disease is debilitating.

"It has changed my life and there is no way of going back. You just learn to look ahead," she said.

Copyright 2001 Miami Herald