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Walking with purpose
MS walk - George1.jpg
Heather George was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in July 2007. The annual McMinnville Multiple Sclerosis Walk is scheduled for next weekend.

The annual McMinnville Multiple Sclerosis Walk is set for next weekend on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at McMinnville Civic Center.


Event organizer Heather George was diagnosed with MS in July 2007 and says people living with MS are faced with obstacles that require remarkable determination, strength, and optimism.


“I was 28 years old,” said George, who works as a registered nurse at Saint Thomas River Park Hospital. “My first symptom was losing my peripheral vision in my left eye, followed by total blindness in my left eye the next morning. I spent eight very scary days in the hospital not knowing what was going to happen to me, not knowing if I was going to regain my vision.”


MS is a debilitating autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, causing nerve damage in the brain and spinal cord. The chronic condition results in symptoms like loss of motor control, fatigue, and blurry vision, and it disproportionately affects more women than men. If caught early, it can be manageable. Until a cure is found, MS is for life.


After the diagnoses, George learned all she could about the disease.

Vision did return, but her left eye remains weaker than her right and is the emphasis of major symptoms. There are no two people affected the same by the disease.


Joey Young was diagnosed with MS in 2017.


“In March 2017, my wife and I were walking around the block and upon returning home I noticed my toe/foot was numb,” Young said. “Over the next few days this progressed to numbness from my waist down. My primary care provider referred me to a neurologist in Cookeville. A month later I was sitting in his office reviewing the symptoms leading up to my visit with him. After several tests and MRIs, he diagnosed me with MS.”


At 33 years old, his MS was progressive.


“I had multiple lesions in my brain and one lesion at T12 in my back,” said Young. “He also stated I have probably had MS for around 10 years and did not know due to most of the damage occurring in the brain. I was immediately scheduled to have a three-day course of IV steroids and referred to a neurologist in Franklin.”


Young’s major symptoms are cognitive.


“I still have some tingling sensations in my lower extremities but overall I am relieved the medication has worked for me,” he said. “I have some trouble with memorizing information, concentration, and depression. I am fortunate I am still able to work and participate in activities with my family.”


McMinnville’s first MS walk raised over $30,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Since then, it averages $15,000 to $18,000 a year.


Said George, “The entire community has been so supportive in so many ways including our sponsorship program, providing auction items for the live auction we have the day of the walk, and coming to the walk to participate in festivities.”


Donations for the live auction can still be made and vendor booth space is available. For more information, contact George at 931-224-7997.


Walk registration is at 9 a.m., followed by a live auction. The walk will take place immediately after the auction.