TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Tonawanda woman and her husband will be volunteering with Walk M.S. at Canalside Saturday because they are committed to the cause of finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.
Debby Bird was 39 years old and a single mother of two when she was first diagnosed with M.S. in 1991.
“It really didn’t hit me right away and then, eventually, it’s like you have this the rest of your life,” she says. “You have to deal with it.”
Multiple sclerosis is especially prevalent in Western New York; a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that causes a wide range of symptoms. They are different for every person.
“I have double vision in my right eye. My balance is really bad. Sometimes I slur my speech,” says Debby, who uses a cane, a walker, and a wheelchair at various times during the day. And, she says, fatigue can be debilitating.
Dwight Bird is Debby’s husband: “It (M.S.) changes everybody’s life that comes in contact with it,” he says. “And I feel kind of helpless at times.”
Debby was fortunate that her original doctor was Western New York’s pioneering M.S. researcher, Dr. Lawrence Jacobs. The doctor, who has since passed away, lead the team developing a drug called Avonex.
In 1995 Dr. Jacobs told News Four: “It’s the first medicine that we’ve ever had that prophylactically prevents M.S. relapses and development of disability.”
Debby has injected Avonex once a week for almost 20 years.
“It has kept me level. I haven’t gotten any worse from when I started it.”
There is no cure for M.S., but research has led to many new treatments over the years. Much research has been conducted in Western New York because this area has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the entire country.
Saturday morning, April 30, Debby and Dwight Bird will be among the thousands of people at Canalside for Walk M.S., aiming to raise money for National Multiple Sclerosis Society programs that help local M.S. families, and for M.S. research.
“Please help us,” Dwight says. “They need the money to get the research done.”
Debby says she will see a cure someday. “Yes, yes. It’s on the horizon.”
Registration for Walk M.S. begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 30, at Canalside in Buffalo. The Walk starts at 10 a.m.
Find more information here.