When she wakes up, she’s never sure how her day will go. Will she be able to make it to her doctor’s appointment or spend time playing with her kids? Or will she struggle to get out of bed because of debilitating fatigue or have to fight through shooting nerve pain down her arms and legs? This uncertainty is what Bonnie faces every day as a person living with Multiple Sclerosis.
This May, during Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month, the University Hospital Foundation has been sharing stories of grit, perseverance and hope to raise awareness for over 5,000 MS patients receiving care at the University of Alberta Hospital. While Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world with over 77,000 people living with the disease and 11 people diagnosed every day, Alberta’s rates of prevalence are even higher and we want to know why.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. The immune system attacks nerves in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, disrupting communication between the central nervous system and the body. The cause is not fully understood and there is no known cure. It can also be difficult to diagnose.
60% of people newly diagnosed with MS are between the ages of 20 and 49, in the prime of their lives. That was the case for Bonnie. Before her diagnosis, she led a very active lifestyle with her husband and two young children, enjoying cycling, mountain biking and playing games. She was a successful financial advisor, and loved being on the go.
MS can present itself in a number of ways – numbness or tingling in the hands or feet; fatigue; vision loss; weakness or clumsiness; vertigo; intense itching; changes in mood or cognition; and episodes of fierce, debilitating pain.
MS stopped Bonnie’s life as she knew it and forced her to change the way she lives; including leaving her job. “What is especially frustrating is that for the most part my symptoms are invisible,” says Bonnie. She sometimes feels like her own body is her worst enemy. But she also feels that she is one of the lucky ones. “I am able to walk, I am not bedridden, and I am so grateful for the days I am able to push through.”
The University Hospital Foundation is raising awareness and funds to provide world leading MS patient care and research at the University of Alberta Hospital – and moving us one step closer to putting an end to MS. Working with researchers at the University of Alberta, and in cooperation with MS researchers around the world, Alberta is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the search for a faster way to diagnose MS, develop more reliable treatments, and enhance care in the community.
This year, the University Hospital Foundation is supporting those living with MS in our communities through the Full House Lottery. Your purchase of a Full House Lottery ticket today will help create world leading MS patient care and research at the University of Alberta Hospital – and move us one step closer to putting an end to MS
P.S. The need is greater than ever for people affected by MS, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many treatments for MS work by modifying or suppressing the immune system, so people with MS who are treated with these therapies can face an increased risk of infection.
Together we can make a real difference in putting an end to MS.