David Osmond raises awareness for Multiple Sclerosis
David Osmond kicked off the opening ceremony at the Walk MS: Houston event on Sunday, Nov. 10. For David, the fundraising event for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society was part of his personal mission to bring more awareness to MS diagnosis and treatment. Both he and his father, Alan, have been diagnosed with MS.
The younger Osmond recently wrote “I Can Do This,” a song to inspire other people living with MS. The song is available as a free download at the Our Voice in Song website.
Osmond partnered with Novartis Pharmaceuticals to create the website to share diet and fitness tips and help educate people about Relapsing MS.
There are four types of MS. Alan Osmond was diagnosed with Progressive MS. As the name implies, it generally progresses until the person relies on a wheelchair.
With Relapsing MS, an attack may last weeks, months or years, then go away for months or years.
Since he was diagnosed with Relapsing MS at age 26, Osmond has become an advocate for the MS community.
“If there’s one thing I want people to know,” Osmond said, “it’s that there is hope, and there is community. There is support and unconditional love.”
“I’m so glad David is doing this, because MS attacks young people in their 20s and 30s,” said Dr. Flavia Nelson, an MS specialist, associate professor of neurology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and associate director of the MRI Analysis Center.
“MS is the number one most disabling disease for young adults, outside of auto accidents,” Nelson adds. “Every hour more than one person is diagnosed, because we’re getting better at diagnosing it.”
The McDonald MS Diagnostic Criteria is the global standard for diagnosing MS, but it only came about after a group of experts met in London in 2001 to establish diagnostic guidelines. The criteria was revised in 2006 and 2010.
“Now, a diagnosis can be made at the first attack with one MRI,” Nelson said.
Before the McDonald criteria was developed it took multiple attacks and several MRIs to make an accurate diagnosis. That would often delay treatment by years. With new diagnostic advancements, patients have access to drug treatments earlier in the progression of the disease.
Osmond has been taking Gilenya, a Novartis drug, since 2010. Novartis reached out to Osmond to license his song for the Our Voice in Song awareness campaign.
“When you’re first diagnosed you can feel lost, and you might see a bunch of rumors online,” Osmond said. “Go to the professionals. With all the advancements, there is hope.”
Symptoms of MS vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms are vision loss, numbness of the limbs and severe fatigue that lasts days, weeks or even months. For David, symptoms started with crippling pain.
“I had major crushing pain and paralysis. But right before that I had 30 minutes to an hour of problems with my vision. I had my eyes checked and they told me I had perfect vision, so when the pain started I thought I had just pinched a nerve. I thought that until I was in a wheelchair.”
Osmond had seen the progressive form of MS first-hand when he was growing up. He had always known his father to use a wheelchair.
“I thought I knew everything about MS,” he said. “I was in complete denial that I could have it. I wish I’d come to grips with it earlier. It’s worth the trip to the doctor, because early treatment is key.”
“Symptoms may present in one eye only, or numbness in the feet that spreads to the waist,” Nelson said. “It’s an autoimmune illness. It attacks your brain and spinal cord, creating lesions. Everyone is different.”
The onset of symptoms may be so gradual they’re dismissed. A person may have an attack of vision loss or numbness, then it goes away and there are no symptoms for a few months or several years. The disease continues to progress through the brain and spinal cord, even if symptoms are gone.
“Multiple Sclerosis literally means ‘many scars,’” Osmond said. Scar tissue forms on the brain and spinal cord, leading to episodes of blindness or paralysis. “It’s like a fingerprint that’s different from one person to the next.”
With the largest medical center in the world, it should come as no surprise that Houston has one of the largest concentrations of MS specialists, research programs and treatment centers in the country. The city has two major research and treatment centers, one at Baylor University and the other at the UT Health Science Center.
“It’s not just individuals who have MS, but their family as well,” Osmond said. “My wife and children have MS because they live with it. Every night in our family prayer my youngest daughter says, ‘please help daddy with his MS’ and that gives me energy to help people and keep fighting.”
Osmond no longer uses a wheelchair and has returned to performing his music on stage. His goal is to give hope to others living with MS.
“I’ve seen the power of music,” he said. “It enables me to give back to this community that has given so much to me.”
“David’s attitude is the best one to have,” said Nelson. “You have to be proactive and have a good attitude. A good attitude is the most important thing you can do.”
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