Sometimes someone unknowingly collides with your life, your business, your outlook on life. Pinellas Community Foundation recently crossed paths with just such an admirable individual named Richard at YMCA of the Suncoast in Clearwater.
Richard has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease impacting the central nervous system. MS is an unpredictable disease from which deterioration can come fast, unless a person stays vital. Richard actively uses the “Y” swimming pool and PAL, a portable aquatic lift purchased with the help of a grant from Pinellas Community Foundation.
As you read you will find that Richard is much more than an example of how Pinellas Community Foundation makes a difference to individuals in our community. He is an inspiration. We hope his insights and energetic spirit serve to uplift you, just as it has us.
Look for Richard’s monthly posts throughout the year.
From Where I Sit by Richard E.
Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. – John Lennon
I have had MS for fifty-one years, since I was twenty-two, so there’s a lot to tell.
Multiple sclerosis presents you with a never-ending supply of circumstances. Some come and go dramatically, some progress slowly. I am fortunate to have had a gradual course of illness that allowed me the time to adjust to living with it. An incredibly supportive wife and family have helped me through this, as well.
It’s also easier too, if you are a problem-solver.
As a skill or function diminishes it’s hard not to think of it as a loss. The most common reaction is that you think you are less of a person because of it. Dogs don’t think that way. They don’t think they are less of a dog if they only have three legs. They simply adopt a gait that gets them from one point to another. People add something else – a period of mourning their loss. It’s natural, but it’s the length of that mourning period that determines when or whether a person will work on that problem.
By nature, I like solving problems, and MS is a biggie, but I work on it in little increments. If not, the enormity of my MS would be overwhelming. For example: if I have a concern about my ability to keep standing, I work my legs specifically in the pool, and parallel bars in PT, I use bands to strengthen them when I am sitting in my wheelchair watching television, I stretch them in yoga. If my hand needs tending to I create a program for that. If I get casual about this I notice I am losing ground. The thought that I might never be able to stand again, and will only be able to slide-transfer onto things, or that my hand will lose all function, propels me into action once more. Those things might someday happen but I am going to try and slow that process down as much as I can.
BIO: Richard, born in the heart of Manhattan, has recently begun writing memoirs of his life there as well as stories about his travels through many countries, mostly by hitching, motorcycle and kayak. He has lived and worked in Mexico, has been in the film industry, in publishing as an art director for 20 years, taught graphic design throughout his life on the college level, and was a retailer in Connecticut with his wife Karen, of the arts of Native America, Mexico and The West for 20 years, before retiring in Clearwater Florida. He has had multiple sclerosis for 50 years, and the last 25 years of adventures have been by wheelchair.