When multiple sclerosis strikes, it hits whole family

Amirah Culbreath thought she needed a new pair of glasses.

"I had a glare, but my optometrist couldn't find anything and I was sent to doctor after doctor," she said. "Finally, they did a MRI and a spinal tap, and that's when they discovered it. That's when I found out I had MS."

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003, the wife and mother of two sons had to change her eating habits and find ways to minimize stress, among other things.

"I would say the biggest thing, though, was that I had to slow down, because I was always ripping and running," she said. "I've adjusted, but I can tell it frustrates my family sometimes because they see that I'm hurting but there's nothing they can do to take the pain away."

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system by interrupting the flow of information from the brain to the body, affecting mobility.

The disease can affect an entire family, said Mitzi Williams, the medical director of the Augusta MS Center.

"Patients often have to make changes, and for many that also means that the family has to adjust to those changes," she said. "The patients aren't the only ones living with MS. Their families are, too."

The center will sponsor its fourth annual Living With MS as a Family on Saturday at Fort Discovery. The event will feature several activities, including simulations of MS symptoms and sessions for patients, children and other family members to ask questions about MS and share experiences.

"It really helps people get a better understanding, because many of the symptoms you can't physically see," Dr. Williams said. "Through the simulations, they get a better understanding how difficult everyday motions are for MS patients."

It's a valuable event, Mrs. Culbreath said.

"Families get so frustrated when they don't understand what we go through, and that makes it hard for them to cope," she said. "The event really helps them to understand MS and how they can help. It's a big eye-opener for everyone involved."

The event is free, but registration is required. Call (888) 792-2937, ext. 7024, by noon Friday.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Living With MS as a Family
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Fort Dis-covery, 1 Seventh St.
COST: Free, but registration required, Lunch will be served.
REGISTER: Call (888) 792-2937, ext. 7024, to register. Deadline to register is noon Friday.

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