Sure-footed strides toward a cure for MS
One foot in front of the other. Walking is part of a daily routine for most people, but for 2.1 million people around the globe, this simple action is taking steps toward curing a complex disease - multiple sclerosis.
An anticipated 150 walkers are expected to participate in Walk MS: Alexandria. Alexandria is one of 33 locations where a walk will be held to raise funds to support programs, services and research for more than 17,000 people and their families affected by MS in the region.
In 2012, $22,000 was raised locally; $50 million was the national total. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter will host the event on Sunday, May 5 at Voyager Elementary School.
The Society has named Alexandria City Administrator Jim Taddei as the Alexandria Ambassador. Taddei was diagnosed with a progressive form of MS in the 1980s.
While playing sports in college, Taddei noticed his left side starting to drag.
"I went through a battery of tests," Taddei said. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test at the Mayo Clinic led to his diagnosis. It was one of the first MRIs performed at the clinic, Taddei recalled.
MS in an unpredictable central nervous system disease that disrupts information flow between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. Taddei transitioned to a motorized wheelchair 10 years ago but still uses a walking cane around his home.
"It can be frustrating at times," Taddei said. "I've been blessed with a terrific spouse."
Taddei said a lot of people don't realize how stressful it can be for people living with someone with MS. Now that he is unable to drive, his wife of 41 years, Deb, has taken on that responsibility as well as helping him around the house. When Taddei needs something from the kitchen, she's there; if he falls, she's there. Taddei said neighbors, friends and co-workers help him as well.
"One service we are fortunate to have in our community is Rainbow Rider," Taddei said. He was hitching a ride on Rainbow Rider on a Monday afternoon to the Public Works building after meetings in City Hall. Rainbow Rider buses are equipped with handicapped accessible lifts that can accommodate wheelchairs.
"It's like an electrical cord. When insulation breaks down, your circuit doesn't follow through."
ALEXANDRIA MS AMBASSADOR
WHO HAS MS?
MS affects people of all ages and ethnicities but a higher percentage has been found in people with northern European ancestry. People of African, Asian and Hispanic backgrounds are not immune.
A diagnosis is generally made in people between the ages of 20 and 50. An estimated 10,000 children also live with the disease.
"Surprisingly, there are more women with MS than men," Taddei said. "Although it's across the board." Statistics show women are two to three times more likely than men to develop MS.
CAUSE AND A CURE
Science is getting closer to determining the cause of MS but has not yet been able to pinpoint the root. The cause of MS symptoms has been linked to a protective insulation around nerve fibers in the central nervous system called myelin.
Myelin breaks down and is replaced by scar tissue, which disrupts or stops communication between the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
"It's like an electrical cord. When insulation breaks down, your circuit doesn't follow through," Taddei said. "Your brain tells your arm to move, but it doesn't register."
In the past decade, medicines have been developed to slow the progression of the disease. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends different disease-modifying drugs, depending on a patient's form of MS.
The disease affects all people differently and can be difficult to diagnose, but has been split into four main types: relapsing-remitting, primary-progressive, secondary-progressive and progressive-relapsing.
Taddei said people newly diagnosed with MS should contact the MS Society for information on the disease and begin drug therapy as soon as possible to lessen the condition over time. If medications were available sooner, Taddei may have benefitted.
"I'm too advanced for medicine to slow down the negative impact of MS," Taddei said.
Taddei was nominated by Carol Paterson-Smith, a parishioner at Calvary Lutheran Church.
Paterson-Smith cited Taddei's public speaking skills and drive to continue working despite his MS as reasons for the nomination.
"He is a smart and kind man," Paterson-Smith wrote on his nomination form.
As Ambassador, Taddei will be trained on how to be a representative of the National MS Society. He will have the opportunity to promote Walk MS and share his story with the community.
WALK MS: ALEXANDRIA
The WALK MS: Christopher and Banks Alexandria Walk presented by Walser will begin with check-in from 10 to 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 5 at Voyager Elementary School, 203 County Road 44 NW, Alexandria. Walkers will trek along a 1.7 or 3.5 mile route, leading back to the school.
Money raised will benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter. The Upper Midwest Chapter includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and western Wisconsin. Programs funded include direct financial assistance, family resources, housing and equipment, exercise and wellness, recreational and social activities, research and clinical trials.
TYPES OF MS
Relapsing-remitting: Clearly defined flare-ups of symptoms followed by recovery periods. Most common form of MS at time of diagnosis; approximately 85 percent at onset.
Primary-progressive: Nearly continuous varied-levels of worsening of disease from onset with no distinct relapses or remissions. Relatively rare; approximately 10 percent at onset.
Secondary-progressive: Initial relapse-remitting period followed by a steady worsening. If left untreated, 50 percent of people with relapsing-remitting MS develop secondary-progressive within 10 years of initial diagnosis.
Progressive-relapsing: Steady worsening from onset with flare-ups. Unlike relapsing-remitting MS, the time between flare-ups is characterized by continued disease progression. Relatively rare; approximately 5 percent at onset.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.