A year ago, a desperate Christine called the Chapter for help. Her MS - coupled with sickness, stress and grief - had left her so weak that she was falling and having trouble getting out of bed. She feared losing her independence at age 40.
“I had my back against the wall,” she says.
The Chapter connected her to care manager Sarah Winter, who came to Christine’s home and helped her identify her needs and goals and then come up with a plan.
The first step was to follow her neurologist’s advice and get into the swimming pool. A $400 Chapter wellness grant offset the cost of a personal trainer at a nearby health club, where she started weekly aquatics walking to build her strength.
Other Chapter programs helped Christine with modifications to her Federal Way condominium and the cost of a new wheelchair. She also entered counseling.
To improve her finances and end her isolation, Christine took the lead in finding a roommate and a job. Her part-time summer employment as an airport greeter began in May.
The job will no doubt bring back memories. For 15 years, Christine was a stock clerk for Alaska Airlines. The physical job had her on her feet much of the day in a vast storeroom housing everything from tiny bolts to huge airplane engines.
In 1994, she noticed numbness in her feet. Her MS diagnosis at age 24 was the latest in a series of life blows. An earlier condition had already left her legally blind in one eye. And, at age 20, she had lost her mother.
But Christine’s strong faith kept her going. She started investing as much as she could of her earnings as a hedge against the future.
Her foresight proved prudent. MS would go on to rob her of much of her mobility as well as her career. Upon leaving her job in 2003, she was initially denied Social Security benefits.
“Nobody believed me,” she says, “because I wasn’t in a wheelchair.”
Christine was already feeling overstressed when her boyfriend died from liver disease in 2005. The grief from his untimely death tipped the scales. She began using a wheelchair and was restricted for eight months in her downstairs condominium until she got a ramp from Rebuilding Together Seattle, a volunteer organization.
The ramp meant freedom, but not from financial and health issues. Last year, as her savings drained, she came down with shingles followed by pneumonia.
“I was so scared,” she says. “That’s when I contacted the National MS Society.”
Sarah Winter, one of several care managers under contract with the Chapter, started working with Christine last summer, giving her the support she needed to regain her independence and vitality, one goal at a time.
“Christine has always struck me as a passionate, smart and savvy woman who knows herself and meets challenges head-on,” Sarah says.
In a thank-you note to the Chapter, Christine reflects on the progress she’s made over the last year. “My life has a new beginning,” she wrote. “I’m doing things I did not think I could do one year ago. I’ll always be grateful.”