Point clinic plans aquatics class to serve multiple sclerosis patients
Wed, Sep 24, 2003
By Barbara Martin
Stevens Point Journal
Just because he cannot walk, don't think Gary Roth has given up on exercise.
"Everyday living is exercise for some people," he said. "If you have to lift yourself every time you move, you would understand."
Roth, 48, of Stevens Point was diagnosed in 1981 with a form of multiple sclerosis that has paralyzed his legs. He uses a motorized scooter to get around and drives a red van equipped with hand controls.
A new acquatics class would help those with MS. Berlex Laboratories of New Jersey is offering a grant that will pay for the program, said Karla Huber, an MS-certified registered nurse at Rice Medical Center.
The center plans to offer a six- or eight-week session to start in late October or early November and then re-assess the class to see how well it worked, she said.
MS, which is thought to be an auto-immune disease that affects the central nervous system, affects different people differently.
Some people who have the disease live their entire lives with little or no disability while others, like Roth, face paralysis.
Many people with MS have numbness and weakness in their muscles, Huber said. If they don't exercise, they'll lose that muscle tone.
Myelin is a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system, and it helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.
In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken.
When myelin or the nerve fiber is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted, and this produces the various symptoms of MS.
"Our muscles are fine, but the nerves going to them are the problem," Roth said.
Barb McDonald, 67, was diagnosed with MS eight years ago when she noticed a lack of coordination.
"When I was diagnosed, I decided this disease wasn't going to get me. I was going to get it," McDonald said. "That's when I decided I was going to do anything and everything I could to put things in this town to educate people. With Gary's help, I have."
Exercise plays an im-portant role in her fight against the disease.
"It strengthens my body. It strengthens my mind," McDonald said. "I found it to be a benefit, definitely."
She and Roth became involved with MS support groups at St. Michael's Hospital and Rice Medical Center. The daytime group is more of a social gathering for people who often have advanced MS symptoms while the evening group tends to attract recently diagnosed people and is more educational.
Evening meetings might include a yoga instructor or a discussion of alternative treatments, Huber said. They're thinking of starting a third "rolling" support group that would visit people with MS who live in nursing homes.
The Wisconsin Chapter of the National MS Society will hold its fall educational conference Nov. 1 in Janesville. A bus will leave at 6:30 a.m. from the Plover ShopKo. For details, call Karla Huber at 342-7775.
What is multiple sclerosis?
* MS is a chronic, unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system.
* MS is not contagious and is not directly inherited.
* MS is not considered a fatal disease.
* The majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled.
* There is no cure for MS yet, but drugs can help slow the course and/or symptoms in some patients.
Source: Just the Facts 2003-04
MS support groups
* Daytime group meets at 2:30 p.m. the third Thursday of the third full week of each month at Bank One, 601 Main St.
* Evening group meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month in the cafeteria at St. Michael's Hospital.
For details about joining a support group, call Karla Huber at 342-7775
or James McFarland at 342-0410.
Copyright © 2003, Gannett Wisconsin