Steve's Blog

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, also known simply as MS, is a disease that affects the insulation around the brain and spinal cord nerves. The damage from the disease disrupts the ability of the human body to communicate internally, thus causing a whole series of problems. Among the symptoms of MS are the following: fatigue, depression, blindness, muscular spasms and weakness, pain, difficulty in speaking and swallowing, and mobility deficiencies, all the way up to the inability to walk altogether.

The symptoms can come and go over time. The disease affects different people differently. Some are physically incapacitated within a few years of diagnosis; in others the progression of the disease is far slower.

The cause of MS is unknown, but it is believed that it is probably a combination of genetics and environmental factors. MS is not contagious. There is no known cure – yet. There are a number of treatments and medications which can be beneficial in some patients. About 2.5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with MS, and about 400,000 of them are Americans. One of them is my brother, Ron.

Ron was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis about 15 years ago. The first symptom he experienced was blurred vision in one eye. Tests confirmed that he had MS. He continued to work for about five years, and at first his symptoms were virtually undetectable, and no one suspected that Ron was sick. Back then there were far fewer treatments than there are nowadays. Ron’s symptoms gradually got worse over time.

Ron and his wife Nancy, who works fulltime, have two daughters, Laura and Maria, both of whom are married. These three ladies, along with my sister Carol, have taken great care of Ron over the years, and Nancy has tried to keep Ron at home as long as possible. However, it became necessary about a month ago for Ron to move to a nursing home, Pristine Three Rivers Care Center on the Westside. He seems to be adjusting well.

Okay, something I hadn’t mentioned about Ron. He’s probably the one person most responsible for my being involved in politics today. He was my big brother. Five years older than me, and if he did something, I did it. He played sports, so so did I. He was in Scouts, so I joined. He ran and got elected to student council in high school (at Elder), so so did I (at La Salle.)

Ron had a tremendous interest in politics, so it became my interest. The first political involvement I remember having was in 1960 (Ron was 12 and I was 7.) We put John F. Kennedy bumper stickers on our Dad’s car. They didn’t last long however, because our Dad was for Nixon!

Although we’ve shared a lifelong passion for politics, Ron and I ended up on opposite sides of the political spectrum. He’s as liberal a Democrat as I am a conservative Republican.

Anyway, two days ago Ron turned 70. Knowing how much Ron still follows politics, I reached out to a few of my colleagues on Capitol Hill. The following folks were kind enough to call my brother on his 70th birthday, and I’ll be forever grateful to them: Speaker Paul Ryan, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, and Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts (grandson of Attorney General, later Senator, Robert F. Kennedy.)

Finally, if you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with MS, the National MS Society, and locally the Ohio Valley Chapter, can be a great source of useful information, and are working towards a cure.

Thank you.

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