MS Awareness Month

Apr 29, 2014

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Ice is hard. Water is cold. Barricades are not just for decoration. I rode my bike to work on Earth Day. I wasnt feeling particularly environmentally friendly. It was just one of the few beautiful days weve had in April. I rode up to the rail crossing near the old Hydro building. There was a huge train in the way and it had stopped on the tracks. Traffic was backing up on both sides. I smiled to myself and took a short cut. I deked over to Main Street to go through the pedestrian underpass. There was a barricade near the underpass, but it had been pushed off to the side, so it didnt really apply to me. As I started to go down the ramp, I noticed there was water in the underpass. Okay, I was going to get a little wet, no big deal. It turns out the water was on top of ice. After some tire slippage and a less than graceful dismount, I landed on my feet. I was now walking my bike through ankle deep, ice cold water. This was uncomfortable, but not terrible. The underpass was way shorter than I remembered. I had to crouch over to keep my head from the roof. Then the ice beneath me broke.

Unexpected things happen to us every day. Some are self-inflicted, like getting wet when you ignore barricades. Some just happen. MS just happens to otherwise young, healthy people. Every day, three more people in Canada are diagnosed with MS. In total, an estimated 100,000 Canadians have Multiple Sclerosis. Women are more than three times as likely to develop MS as men. MS can cause loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, double vision and paralysis.

May is Multiple Sclerosis awareness month. What is MS or multiple sclerosis? It is an unpredictable and often debilitating disease of the brain and spinal cord. Some of the long nerves in the brain and spinal cord have a covering called myelin. Myelin works a like the plastic covering around a telephone cord. Without the insulating plastic cover, some of the signal that goes down the telephone wire would leak out. The voice on the phone would sound delayed, weakened, garbled or possibly not there at all. In MS, the body mistakenly attacks the insulating myelin sheath around some of the nerve fibers. So the signals from the brain to the body or body back to the brain get weaker, delayed, garbled or go missing altogether.

Since MS affects some myelin covers some of the time, this leads to one of the most fascinating and frustrating facets of the disease. The symptoms of MS change and are unpredictable. The most common form of MS, relapsing and remitting MS, has well defined attacks followed by complete or partial recovery. It can go away and come back. And it can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. And this is not just that the disease affects different people in different ways! The same person can have different symptoms each attack. You can imagine how frustrating it would be to both worker and employer if a worker came to work one week in a wheel chair and then the next week could walk. Then six months later she could still walk, but says she cant read her computer screen without magnification. And then she is fine. And then six months later she calls in sick for 3 weeks because she is too fatigued to leave the house. Unfortunately, since people with MS often dont look sick and they have symptoms that come and go, some confused employers treat an employees with MS unfairly.

Compared with big diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, why should you care about MS? While it is true that MS isnt as common or as deadly as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Within our country, Manitoba has one of the highest rates of MS in Canada. Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, who heads the MS Clinic in Winnipeg, published a paper about MS prevalence in Manitoba in the January 2010 issue of Neurology. She concluded Manitoba has one of the highest prevalence rates of MS in the world. So, Multiple Sclerosis does affect a lot of people in our area. There are even more local connections to MS research. Dr. Mike Namaka, who grew up in Winnipegosis, is also an MS researcher at the Manitoba MS Clinic in Winnipeg. Its nice to see a Parkland prodigy work on a Manitoba problem.

I'm not just an interested health care professional when it comes to MS. I'm also on the local board of Parkland Chapter of the MS Society. The Parkland Chapter services the largest geographic area of any chapter in Manitoba. It stretches from south of Riding Mountain National Park all the way up to Thompson. Robin Searle, our chapter manager, has travelled all of it offering services to people with MS who need it. Robin and our Special Events Coordinator Lori Bogoslowski, will kick off MS Awareness Month at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy foyer. On May 1, they will be selling red velvet cupcakes and carnations at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy. On May 2 they will be in Mall. MS Awareness Month culminates in the Parklank MS Walk. It will be held on Sunday, May 25 at Clear Lake. Sign up or donate at Remember that all the money raised in the Parkland goes towards MS services in the Parkland and towards research to end MS. The MS Society doesnt receive any government funding. It completely relies on fundraising to function.

As the ice broke under my feet in the underpass, I managed to scrape both shins on the large, hard chunks of ice I was falling through. Now I was up to my knees in ice cold water. I was still under a train. So I kept walking. Large chunks of ice were breaking with every step. Then of course I slipped. Now I was soaked to the waist in ice cold water. I finally managed to haul my half frozen butt and my bike out the underpass. With bloodied shins, and that burny, tingly feeling you get when your legs start thawing out, I kept peddling to work. It was still a terrible decision to ignore the barricade, but I was making better time than if I had waited for the train. As badly as my day was going due to my own stupidity, unlike someone with MS, at least the signal from my brain to my legs was still getting through.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

We now have most of the articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website

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