Flags fly in Brewer to recognize Mainers with multiple sclerosis

Posted March 04, 2009, at 9:09 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — A sea of bright orange flags, representing the 3,000 people in Maine who live with multiple sclerosis, flapped wildly on Wednesday as high winds passed through the Brewer Auditorium parking lot where a group of locals gathered to kick off MS Awareness Week.

“There are 600 flags displayed that represent the one in five people afflicted with MS here in the state of Maine,” said Denise Clavette, Maine chapter president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The chapter is asking everyone to “MOVE IT to end MS now,” and says MS Awareness Week, March 2-8, is a perfect time to take a first step.

“It is the perfect time to join and help build the MS Movement,” she said.

Multiple sclerosis interrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body and stops people from moving.

“Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or more severe and may include paralysis or loss of vision,” Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow said, reading a City Council proclamation.

He went on to say, “Approximately 3,000 families in Maine are affected by MS, with nearly one in every 40 residents who have MS. This is a per-capita rate of 70 percent higher than the nation as a whole.”

There is no known reason why MS is so prevalent in Maine, Clavette said.

“At this point it’s unknown,” she said. “A lot of research is going on to work on a cure and prevention.”

Early and continued treatment is very helpful for people with multiple sclerosis to keep moving, Clavette said.

“We are able to do so much with people who have MS,” she said.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Bob Casey, D-Pa., introduced a bipartisan resolution to recognize National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week that gained unanimous consent in the Senate, according to a press release from the two.

“We live in an age of possibility, where all that stands in the way of curing our most degenerative illnesses is the will and commitment to do so,” Snowe said. “Too little is known about this disease that affects hundreds and thousands of Americans. In an age where technology and innovation have launched a new race for medical achievement, we have the opportunity and obligation to find a cure for MS.”

City Councilor Gail Kelly, Snowe’s state director, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992.

The resolution states that MS affects approximately 400,000 United State citizens of all ages, genders and ethnicities, and “also recognizes and reaffirms our commitment to combating MS by promoting awareness about its causes and risks by promoting new education programs, supporting research and expanding access to medical treatment.”

In Brewer, Key Club members from John Bapst Memorial High School and others volunteered Wednesday morning to place the small flags in a snowbank at the auditorium’s entrance.

Those interested in more information about multiple sclerosis can check out the National MS Society’s Web site, nationalmssociety.org, visit the Maine chapter’s site at msmaine.org or call 1-800-344-4867.

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