The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has designated Sunday through?March 15 as MS Awareness Week, according to Sharon O'Keiff, manager of the Keystone Branch, Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body.
Symptoms range from reduced or lost mobility to numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms in any one person cannot yet be predicted.
Brigid Sheedy of Altoona demonstrates her bicycle made by Currie Tech at the Bike MS: Keystone Country Ride 2013 awards dinner. The 2013 bike ride raised $527,000 for the Keystone Branch of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and marked the 18th year the event has been held. The bicycle runs on a rechargeable ion battery and is equipped with an electrical feature enabling the rider to use a pedal assist mode that can be set for low, medium or high, allowing the bicycle to pedal for the rider. The bicycle can also be switched to a throttle and go mode in which movement is controlled by hand. The rider’s feet can rest on the peddles but no leg movement is necessary. Setting the bicycle to manual mode allows it to be used as a regular bicycle.
Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being afflicted.
Approximately 7,500 people have been diagnosed with MS in the 26 counties covered by the Western Pennsylvania Chapter, including 300 living in Blair County.
The Western Pennsylvania Chapter is associated with two outpatient MS centers: the University of Pittsburgh UPMC MS Clinic and the Allegheny MS Treatment Center in Pittsburgh. Both facilities provide diagnosis and comprehensive care administered by a team of health care professionals.
The chapter office, also located in Pittsburgh, maintains a complete and up-to-date library of books, journals, video and audio tapes on a wide variety of MS-related topics.
Materials can be requested by calling 800-344-4867. Postage-paid return envelopes will be provided.
Other services rendered by the chapter include support and self-help groups, family programs and an MS Action Alert Network for advocacy.
"The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is made up of passionate individuals who want a world free of multiple sclerosis," said Anthea L. Germano, public relations coordinator for the society's Keystone Branch.
"The MS Society moves research forward by pursuing prevention, treatments and an eventual cure. Along with raising needed funds for MS education and research, we also reach out and respond to individuals and families living with MS by providing wellness, exercise, educational and family support programs. Financial assistance is provided for medical equipment, ramps, home and auto modifications, air conditioners and crisis assistance. In addition, college scholarships are available for high school seniors diagnosed with MS.
"The REACH Program is a grant-funded initiative that addresses the issue of abuse and neglect of people with MS by offering education, advocacy, support, relocation assistance and referrals to increase, maintain, or restore safety and independence for individuals with MS. These are just a few of the services the Multiple Sclerosis Society has to offer," Germano said.
The Keystone Branch covers Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties. Upcoming fundraising events for Blair County include Walk MS on April 27; Bike MS Keystone Country Ride on July 19 and 20; the 14th annual Anne E. Barnes Memorial Golf Tournament on Sept. 4; and Lobsterfest for MS 2014 on Sept. 19.
Other events scheduled within the Keystone Branch include: Indiana County Walk MS on April 26; Bedford County Walk MS and DuBois Walk MS on April 27 and Johnstown Walk MS on May 4.
For more information about MS Awareness Week, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and volunteer opportunities, contact O'Keiff at
696-1017 or through the website at www.nationalmssociety.org/pax.