April 27, 2010
I had a great time walking in the MS walk with other students and clients from my Optimal Living with MS class.
This semester, I’ve been taking a class with clients with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Many of these people have difficulties doing what they want and need to do, and often have fatigue and weakness. This is a 12-week course run by the MS Society, and participants come to USC and work with OT students in the morning, and PT students in the afternoon. We led groups for them such as Roles and Identity, Meaningful Activities, Adaptive Equipment, Energy Conservation, Stress Management, and Time Management, among others. I led the group on Advocacy and Assertiveness, which was really fun! A neat part of the class was the opportunity to meet with PT students who are also taking the class, and get to talk to them about what OT does for this population.
We just finished the class, and all of the participants shared their feelings about the experience. Nearly all of them stated that they came to the class to receive physical therapy, and didn’t even know what occupational therapy was! However, over the course of the twelve weeks, they came to really appreciate the unique role of OT in their illness management and health optimization. We look further than the body — we look at the desires, wishes, and struggles of the individual. We look at the psychosocial aspect of living with MS and dealing with functional limitations and loss of meaningful roles and activities. I learned a lot from the participants as they shared the lived experience of MS and I understood that MS does not define these people. As the participant I worked with stated, “I have MS, MS doesn’t have me!”
I was able to attend the Los Angeles MS Walk last weekend at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Most of the students in my class went, and one of our participants was there as well. It was a great experience to see so many people come together for a cause about which they were passionate. As I tried to raise money for the walk, I met more and more people whose families had been affected by the disease. The walk signified hope, not despair, as people celebrated together to raise money to research for a cure to MS.