Elisa Sutherland has been a runner since middle school, but when she suffered her first multiple sclerosis attack, she was numb from the waist down and lost the ability to walk. She slowly learned to walk again, and eventually to run. All of this would not have been possible without the people in her life. Elisa reflects that it is so hard to ask for help and we feel strong when we can do things by ourselves, but learning to ask for help brings a whole different level of strength.
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After my first multiple sclerosis (MS) attack, I went to Indiana where my mother took care of me while my husband worked multiple jobs. I learned to walk again using a wheelchair as a walker and flew home to Oregon.
A couple of days later, I woke up with the world spinning and the inability to keep anything inside. There was nothing to be done, except liquids through an IV and medicine to make medicine to make the spinning slow. My poor husband had to work and my family was over 1,000 miles away.
We were living in the basement of a couple named Carol and Ed. We had arranged to care for Carol’s elderly parents in exchange for housing. Carol’s parents had recently passed away, but they generously offered to let us stay free of charge until we were able to get back on our feet. Carol and Ed both volunteered to help me. Until my first MS attack, I had never been in a position where I had to ask for help from someone who wasn’t my family. When my body went numb from the waist down, my husband carried me around and my mom wheeled me from place to place in her house. This was a whole different situation—my mom couldn’t be there and my husband had to work 12-16 hour days.
Carol set me up with a doorbell that I could use to call her downstairs for help. Every morning, she came down to fix me some breakfast and take me to the bathroom. Whenever I needed anything, I would ring the doorbell and Carol would come running down the stairs to get my phone charger, give me a blanket and occasionally wheel me outside to sit in the sun. In the evening, Ed would help me come upstairs, so that I could sit in their living room and have some company. After a month, my vertigo was almost gone and I was ready to start practicing walking again. Carol would drive me and my wheelchair to a paved trail where I was able to push the wheelchair for a few more minutes every day.
I asked for Carol and Ed’s help day after day and they were always available. Five years and many relapses later, I am honored to be raising money for Silver Lining Mentoring, an organization that believes in helping youth build relationships so that they have someone they can ask for help, just like I did of Carol and Ed.