By Dan McDonald
For Hometown News
BREVARD -- For Joanne Green, the honor of being named the Ambassador for this year's Brevard Walk MS fundraiser began 20 years ago with a nagging pain in her left eye.
An appointment with an ophthalmologist began a diagnosis that ultimately left the Palm Bay resident as one of the estimated 400,000 U.S. citizens suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic disease of the central nervous system for which there is no cure and which strikes victims in an astonishing array of unpredictable and largely untreatable symptoms.
"Think of the central nervous system as carrying electrical impulses throughout the body," said Mrs. Green, financial coordinator for student affairs at Florida Institute of Technology. "MS strips away the protective covering of the nerve cells, much like stripping away the covering of electrical wires in your house. The result is the electrical impulse is shorted out and it causes a wide assortment of symptoms in the body."
In her case, Mrs. Green went blind in her left eye for a short amount of time.
"Then, that eye regained sight, but I went blind in my right eye," she said. "Then, fortunately for me, my vision cleared up and luckily for me, since then, I haven't had any other major problems. I do have trouble remembering things, and like many MS sufferers, I have a low tolerance for heat. But, I'm very lucky."
While Mrs. Green has largely remained symptom free, for some, the illness leaves them living with unpredictable symptoms that can come and go, like numbness and blurred vision.
For others, permanent damage, such as paralysis occurs. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with more than twice as many women as men affected, according to data from the Mid Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
"I know I've been very fortunate in the way MS has progressed for me," Mrs. Green, 60, said. "In fact, if you saw me, you wouldn't know I have the disease. But I know how unpredictable it can be, and how devastating it can be. Because of that, I'm willing to do whatever I can to raise funds for research and treatment and to help spread the word about MS."
"I've been working with the Mid Florida Chapter for 10 years during their fundraisers, and this year they selected me to be the Ambassador," she added. "I'm honored and pleased. It's a privilege that I'm blessed to have."
According to Gaby Casado, development manager for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Brevard Walk MS, scheduled for 8 a.m., Saturday, March 16, at The Church at Viera, is part of the Mid Florida MS Chapter's main fundraising event.
She explained that the Mid Florida MS Chapter serves 23 counties, comprised of Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Desoto, Flagler, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Manatee, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter and Volusia. Walks are planned in several other counties.
"Participants gather pledges before they set out on the 2.5-mile walk," Ms. Casado said. "The goal for this year's walk in Brevard is $70,000, which is a part of the larger goal of $610,000 for the entire Mid Florida Chapter. The money will allow us to provide financial assistance to sufferers, provide counseling, transportation, and fund research into prevention and cure of this disease."
So far, 800 individuals have signed up for the Brevard walk. Mrs. Green will be at the event, coordinating the volunteers.
"We're looking for a great crowd and hope everyone can come out and help," she said. "While I'm not walking myself this year, I have a team, 'Joanne Green's Walkers,' walking in my honor. It's a great cause, and I hope by getting the word out, we'll have a great response. It's a disease that really impacts the individual, and this is a way of fighting back. I hope everyone reading this gets involved."
For more information about joining Brevard Walk MS contact Kevin Kelley Chair, Brevard Walk MS, at (321) 636-0235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.