Multiple Sclerosis and Vitamin F

May 14, 2014
Tagged with: Multiple Sclerosis and Vitamin F

What do the people in this picture have in common? Willingness! Usually they would be exercising in an aquatics class. But the day this photo was taken, the pool was unexpectedly closed. It would have been so easy for any one of them to say, “Well, I tried to exercise, but I couldn’t, so I’m going home.” As you can see, they did not go home. They stayed and danced in chairs!

Now, that is willingness! The other thing most of these people have in common is Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Multiple sclerosis literally means “many scars.” The most current definition of MS is: an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”

While great progress has been and continues to be made in the diagnosis and treatment of MS, there is still so much that is unknown. Since MS affects the CNS, the symptoms of the condition are unique to each person. For some people with MS, their speech is affected, others experience vision difficulty because the optic nerve is impacted, while others have trouble with gait or fatigue or all of the above.

Research has confirmed that people with MS need exercise to maintain their general health and to aid in managing the many symptoms of MS. Water provides a particularly ideal environment for exercise. The buoyancy of the water aids movement. People who cannot walk on land, can walk in water. The viscosity (thickness) of the water provides instant feedback and resistance which increases body awareness. The coolness of the water takes the fear of fatigue and the complications that may come from it out of the exercise equation.

So, what else do these willing people with MS have in common? A nickname, the “Splashers.” The water and MS brought everyone together. But why is this group that formed 10 years ago still together? The water? Sure. How much better they feel after exercising? Yes. The schedule – a place to be and a time to be there? Definitely. But what at the bottom of all those things keeps the Splashers splashing? It is Vitamin F – Friendship. It is because of each other that they continue to come.

The Splashers have eaten scores of potluck lunches together. They have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and marriages, and mourned the deaths of loved ones. The Splashers motivate, tease, and care about each other. Through their common condition they have created an environment of acceptance and hope, even when they are splashing on dry land!




Author: Elizabeth Vander Kamp

  • Ruth L

    You are a wonderful aquatic and spokesperson for MS and exercise.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Ruth, thank you so much. Elizabeth