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Student manages school despite MS

by Patrick Shimabukuro

   

Imagine: You’re doing your normal daily routine, and suddenly you are in so much pain you want to scream. This is what multiple sclerosis can do to someone. Christy Decker, 25, a speech communications major at HPU since fall of 2000, has to live with this everyday.

 

Decker was doing her job training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, when she first began having symptoms of MS. She experienced a bad dizzy spell just before lunch and had to be rushed by ambulance to the base hospital.

“ I was feeling kind of lightheaded and thought it was because I didn’t eat breakfast,” said Decker. “I had to sit, because I felt like I was going to pass out.”

Two months later, Decker said, her symptoms had not gone away, and she went to see a neurologist about to eventually undergo MRI testing and a spinal tap.

“ After testing and going through my medical history, they determined that I had MS,” said Decker.
She was an airman first class in the U.S. Air Force, and was medically retired after diagnosis, in July 1999.

“ I was devastated because I knew that I had to give up my career,” she said. “I thought that my life was over. My family was in Hawai‘i, so they couldn’t help me because I was so far away.”

In September, Decker returned to the Big Island where her family lived. She had to wait for her medical insurance to activate before resuming treatment. She got her old job back as a dishwasher at Waikoloa Village Market and worked until she could move to O‘ahu to attend school at HPU.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the nervous system, including vision, speech, muscle coordination, and other bodily functions, according to Richard Lechtenberg, M.D., in his Multiple Sclerosis Fact Book.

MS affects people of most races and all social backgrounds. The disease usually appears during young adulthood. There is no known cure for it, and since its cause is unknown, a cure is unlikely any time soon. Ways to halt or reverse the disease are being sought through trial and error, according to Lechtenberg.

Decker’s main challenge is managing the pain that comes from MS. She battles not only the unpredictability of the symptoms of relapsing-remitting MS, which is the type Decker has, but also figure out ways to manage it to minimize its effect on her life.

“ I have dizzy spells, headaches, sharp electric shock-like pain, weakness in my legs, low stamina, and fatigue,” said Decker, who manages this pain through drugs such as Baclofen, to help relieve muscle tightness, and Neurontin, a drug that cushions the sharp sensations. She also uses physical therapy and her own version of psychological therapy: she types her symptoms and frustrations out on her computer and tries “to figure out how to solve my problem,” she said.

“ I manage to meet the everyday challenges of pain management by taking it one day at a time and relying on faith, family, and friends for support,” Decker added. “I know that if I do this combination with the drug treatments, then I can have better control over the pain, that at times, can be an obstacle to living my life.”

 

2004, Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.
 
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