Workshop to help area’s MS sufferers

Several local residents are organizing a workshop to help the
estimated 2,500 people in the Silicon Valley area who suffer from
multiple sclerosis live as normally as possible.
Several local residents are organizing a workshop to help the estimated 2,500 people in the Silicon Valley area who suffer from multiple sclerosis live as normally as possible.

The workshop, titled “Moving Forward,” will be held Saturday, April 12 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the San Benito Room at the Hollister Community Center, 300 West St.

Hollister residents Gina Lucas and Robin Louise, with help from the Silicon Valley Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, are bringing together several MS specialists for the meeting designed to help those who have the disease manage and cope with it.

Speakers include physician Michael Berlly, director of the MS clinic at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center; psychologist Kathy Kermit, who specializes in working with people suffering from chronic illnesses; and attorney Terry LaPorte of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Lucas, who is diagnosed with secondary progressive MS and still struggles with the symptoms, worked with Louise to form a local self-help group for MS sufferers, which meets on the last Monday of each month from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Gil Gallery at Hazel Hawkins Hospital.

“We have about 50 people in Hollister with MS,” Lucas said. “I know about 12 of them; where are the rest?”

Multiple sclerosis is believed to be an auto-immune disease. Myelin is the insulation that surrounds the nerves in the central nervous system. In people with MS, myelin develops multiple scars, or sclerosis, Lucas said.

MS is not always easy to diagnose because symptoms may come and go. Recent advances in medical imaging, particularly Magnetic Resonance Imaging, are helping to clarify diagnoses.

“People just don’t understand that we may look fine, but that doesn’t mean we are,” Lucas said.

Some symptoms of MS include tingling, numbness, painful sensations, slurred speech, blurred or double vision, fatigue and bladder or bowel problems. Some people experience muscle weakness, poor balance, poor coordination, muscle tightness or spasticity, or paralysis which may be temporary or permanent.

For more information about the workshop or to register, call Anna at (408) 988-7557.

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