You may have noticed that during the month of March, both the Peace Bridge and Niagara Falls were lit up with the color orange — the official color of the National MS Society. Bridges and buildings in 50 counties of upstate New York were aglow in orange to bring attention to Multiple Sclerosis or, as it is commonly known, “MS.”
“Western New Yorkers suffer with MS at double the national average,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing partner, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “In Greater Buffalo, more than 3,400 individuals are living with MS.”
As MS can attack the brain and spine in many different locations, patients may have any number of different symptoms involving sensation, motor function, or thinking. Vision problems, fatigue, weakness and memory problems are common and can be progressive in some patients, eventually impacting one’s capacity for important activities of daily living, including work.
“Individuals like Val Brunjes, a single mom who blogs about her MS, have found that exercise is a great help in slowing the progress of the disease. Val participates in the ‘Enabling Mobility Center.’ She says the activity helps her keep healthy both physically and emotionally,” Freedman said.
Val also volunteers for ‘Bike MS,’ which promotes bicycle riding for those who have MS and helps raise money for research.
“It’s wonderful to see people with this disease fighting it through physical activity,” Freedman said. “It really helps them stay healthy longer.”
Ultimately, however, the majority of MS sufferers reach a stage where they can no longer work to support themselves or their families and they must turn to Social Security Disability (SSD) for a basic income.
“Getting approved for SSD benefits is not easy,” Freedman said. “There are stringent requirements for medical documentation and work history, and most claimants are denied benefits at the initial application stage. It’s a lengthy process and the best way to approach it is with an attorney who can get you started on the right track and keep you there. It may take time, but ultimately, with the right guidance, qualified applicants will get their benefits.”
Across New York state there are more than 12,800 people with MS, which also has a significant effect on friends, family members and caregivers. Worldwide, MS impacts and challenges the lives of more than 2.1 million people. So when you see a landmark or building lit up in orange, think of the vast numbers of people affected by this debilitating disease.