A woman in Duluth wrote me about Mrs. Margaret Anderson. I had to go to Duluth a few weeks later and, having finished with my meeting, walked up the hill to Mrs. Anderson’s address, and climbed the stairs to the apartment where she and Oscar Anderson, her husband, live. There I met Mrs. Anderson and learned from her the thrilling story of the effort which she, a victim of the disease, is making to combat multiple sclerosis, that little known malady which down so many victims.
Mrs. Anderson taught school for 22 years, 15 in Duluth. One day, she realized suddenly that she could not raise her arm to the top of the blackboard. Control of her arm and legs decreased, and in time, she became bedridden. For 12 years, she has laid flat on her back, a victim of multiple sclerosis. She can move only her head and neck.
Yet Mrs. Anderson has been one of the busiest women in Duluth and just now is engaged on a project which she hopes will bring cheer and comfort and possibly, in time, physical improvement to many Minnesotans who each year become victims of this disease. Cheerful and resourceful herself, she decided several years ago that she would do what she could to bring hope and cheer to other victims of the disease and make them feel that people are not forgetting them.
She put a little note in the paper asking persons interested in multiple sclerosis to meet her at her apartment. Nineteen persons crowded to the little apartment and eagerly joined in formation of a multiple sclerosis club. Soon the club had 85 members. Larger quarters had to be found for the meetings, but sclerosis victims, individually and in groups, continued to pour into her apartment in a stream seeking counsel and encouragement.
Mrs. Anderson saw that it is important to ascertain extent of the disease and get information about the cases and set out to accumulate this information. She encouraged everybody to send in names of victims of the disease. With the help of Helen Heimick, who serves as her nurse, companion and secretary, she wrote to these persons telling her plans. On a big map of Minnesota, she placed a gold star for each victim discovered. She has been in contact to date with 201 persons having multiple sclerosis.
“This is my dream. I hope we can develop a statewide organization that will embrace all the victims of this disease, members of their families and friends and others interested and that we can have here in Minnesota, with our marvelous medical facilities, some kind of clinic under public or private auspices that will study this disease and see if we can’t find the cause and discover ways to prevent or alleviate it. The secret may be just around the corner. I would be willing to undergo the experiments that would be needed in this search.
“It is a big job to develop such an organization and marshal the forces needed to get public attention on this problem. Isn’t there someone in Minnesota who is young and vigorous and filled with zeal who will lead this fight? Someone, I feel, to whom we could say in the words of John McCrae:
‘Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw,
Be yours to hold it high.’”
Multiple sclerosis is no respecter of persons. The victims usually are younger persons, from 20 to 40. Lou Gehrig, the great Yankee Idol, was a victim of one form of the disease, and there have been many others. It has been estimated that there are some 300,000 persons suffering from the disease. Multiple sclerosis attacks and damages the central nervous system, and most of the victims become helpless invalids within a few years. Little has been learned as to the cause or possible remedy. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has launched a number of basis research projects in the east and on the west coast, however, and there is hope for progress. Minnesota, it would seem, should have a share of the worthy endeavor.