Challenges and Multiple Sclerosis

By Leslie Young
[Editor's Note]

I donned an eye patch to simulate blindness, latex gloves to blur my touch, a leg brace to limit my mobility, and slid into a wheelchair. I was a reporter at the Rocky Mountain News, and my assignment was to negotiate downtown Denver and accomplish a range of tasks while hampered by various disabilities a person with multiple sclerosis (MS) may face. The exercise was a media event hosted by the Colorado chapter of the National MS Society. It was 1998, but I clearly remember the lessons I learned that day.

My first task was to take a downtown shuttle to the baseball stadium to fetch a schedule. I was amazed that the shuttle riders didn’t try to help me—only the driver hopped down to assist with the wheelchair lift. In fact, I soon realized I was invisible. I rolled past friends and coworkers who never even glanced down at the woman in the wheelchair to realize they knew her. I managed to get the baseball schedule, then made my way to the bus station to pick up a transit schedule. By now, my upper body felt the effects of wheeling the chair.

My final assignment was to head to the Denver Public Library and access microfilm. I had to cross Civic Center Park—a gorgeous park with an eclectic mix of business people and homeless individuals. Sometimes my coworkers and I took breaks and walked there; that day the street folks were the ones who greeted me, the only people to acknowledge me, make eye contact, and say hello. 

I returned several hours later with my checklist complete, my mind spinning, and my heart forever open to those affected by MS. I was disappointed to find out I was the only media type who completed the assignment. That experience and the resulting story landed me the 1998 Colorado MS Media Award.

All these years later, I’m pleased to still contribute to the fight against MS. While so many drugs and therapies remain relatively ineffective against MS, regular, informed massage can help ease suffering. Whether the effects last an hour or a week, that relief is a blessing to the more than 300,000 Americans afflicted with the disease. So learn from Charlotte Michael Versagi’s cover story (page 56) and know that, once again, you can bring your gift of touch to those in need.


Leslie A. Young, Editor in Chief