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Right diagnosis for making a difference

Winter 2008

The right diagnosis for making a difference


It took nearly seven years for Janet Levy Pauli to finally learn that her vision problems were caused by multiple sclerosis. It took just one phone call for her to make sure countless others won’t face that same frustration.
Janet had optic neuritis, a common early indicator of MS. But her eye doctor dismissed her symptoms of off-colored and blurred vision as “retina problems.” Busy as a dedicated volunteer in the local Jewish community and as the mother of two boys, she didn’t let the persistent visual impairment interfere with her active life.

Six years passed.

Then, after a series of tennis lessons marred by blurry eyesight, Janet had had enough. She was referred to neuro-ophthalmologist Steven Hamilton.

Janet and Bill Pauli“As soon as he said optic neuritis, I knew it was MS,” recalls Janet, who with her husband, Bill, had participated in the MS Walk in honor of friends who had struggled with the disease. “I realized I’d had other symptoms, too, and it was like all the pieces of the puzzle came together for me.”

That’s when it got really frustrating.

For the next nine months, Janet labored to find the right specialist, get appointments and undergo test after test. Finally, in 2000, she got the definitive word. She had MS.

“Getting a diagnosis was harder than actually hearing the diagnosis,” Janet says.

Fast forward another seven years. Janet read an article about the University of Houston, in cooperation with the National MS Society, creating an MS eye clinic using cutting-edge technology called Ocular Coherence Tomography. She called the Greater Washington Chapter and asked Patty Shepherd-Barnes, Chapter President, “If they can have this, why can’t we?”

“When I told Janet and Bill that we could get the OCT equipment for Dr. Hamilton and Dr. May, they were quick to step up to the plate to fund half the $80,000 cost,” Patty says. “Janet is so well informed, so smart, and she and Bill were very generous in wanting to help others.”

The $40,000 gift came from the Bainbridge Island couple through Janet’s family foundation. “I want Seattle to be the best place in the country to help people with MS,” Janet emphasizes.

“It means a lot to me to know that other people from MS clinics all over the region won’t have to go through what I went through in getting a diagnosis and that the equipment will be used for research into new and better ways to treat MS. I feel lucky to be able to contribute.”

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