Preparing for an Emergency

Emergencies can occur suddenly and without warning. For individuals living with MS, or any other chronic disease, medical emergencies and natural disasters can present a real challenge. Emergencies sometimes cannot be avoided, but being prepared ahead of time can make the world of a difference.

You know your body and limitations better than anyone. Plan for your own safety as you are best able to know your functional abilities and possible needs during an emergency situation. It’s important to prepare your surrounding friends and family as well and inform them of any accommodations you may require. Create a personal support network around you that consists of people you trust within your home, school or workplace. Write down your emergency contacts and provide them with your number and address as well. They’ll be able to recognize your capabilities and needs and be able to provide immediate assistance during an emergency situation.

Create a personal checklist and evaluate what assistance and resources you need before, during and after an emergency. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for an unexpected emergency – medical or natural disaster.

  • Water – have liters of water or several water bottles handy.
  • Food that won’t spoil such as canned food, energy bars and dry food. Don’t forget the can opener!
  • Battery powered flashlight and radio
  • First aid kid
  • Prescription medications
  • Copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  • Toiletries – toilet paper, hand sanitizer, utensils
  • A whistle in case you need to call for help

For individuals that have mobility challenges, they often require more detailed planning in the event of a disaster. Some individuals use power chairs or wheelchairs which can pose a challenge in the case of a power outage. It’s important to have a back-up power supply or have a manual wheelchair as an alternative. Another tool to consider is a medical alert necklace. This allows you to call for help with the press of button.

While disasters and emergencies can affect everyone, their impact on individuals with mobile and physical needs can pose a challenges. By taking a few steps and preparing ahead of time, you will be better prepared to face any unexpected emergencies.

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Being Prepared

Individuals living with MS face a lot of uncertainty. Coping with the unpredictability of MS can affect one’s quality of life.  There may be times when you might be going through a relapse or flare up and you may experience MS-related symptoms. It is good to equip yourself to handle such emergencies. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help you to have control over such situations and put your mind at ease:

Emergency information: Have contact information of family, friends, and health care providers whom you can call in the event of an emergency. Keep a list of all medications with their dosages and a copy of your medical history in an accessible area in your home.

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Prepare, don’t despair

Emergencies are sudden and uncontrollable. They can’t always be prevented, but having a plan to tackle them head-on can make a difference in the outcome. It is easy to forget the most well-known information in times of crisis. There are many ways to prepare for an unexpected situation, and creating a plan that is tailored to your specific needs is crucial. Let’s talk about different ways to prepare.

Keeping our medical records easily accessible in case of an emergency is vital but carrying them all the time can be impractical. The Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center offers customized Multiple Sclerosis Identification Cards to individuals living with MS nationally. This card lists vital information, including the individual’s name, address, and emergency contact on one side and common MS symptoms on the back. This card may be useful in an emergency, as it can easily be stored in your wallet, your car, or your luggage and accessed in case of an emergency.

Keeping your emergency contact information at hand can also be done using your phone. You can set an emergency contact and list medical conditions through the Medical ID feature on your iPhone. This can help first responders access lifesaving medical information from the lock screen without needing your passcode. There are also options for other smartphones, such as Android.

For those of us with children, pets, and other loved ones we care for, an emergency can disrupt our schedules and impact those we love. Having a plan can ensure that they are taken care of while we are taking care of ourselves. Keep a record of your children’s school, teachers, extracurricular activities, and schedules. Provide a key to a trusted friend or relative to access your home if needed. Have the necessary supplies for your pets for a couple of weeks and make them easily accessible for friends and family who may be helping care for them.

Keep a packed bag with your essentials if you leave your home rapidly and unexpectedly. Keeping a sealed bag with a change of clothes, medication, and personal supplies may come in handy if you don’t have time to pack or your loved one needs to meet you at the hospital. I like including a comfort item that can bring me peace and comfort at a time of crisis, like a picture of a loved one or a small stuffed animal that has sentimental meaning.

For those who may need additional support at home, a medical alert system may provide the necessary protection to ensure someone responds in case of an emergency. These systems allow an individual to activate a device or press a button in the event of an emergency, and they are especially beneficial for those who live alone or have mobility difficulties.

Emergency planning is all about preparing for and responding to emergencies. Communicating with our loved ones about our needs and discussing their availability and willingness to help is vital to creating a reliable plan. Unexpected situations can be scary, but emergency preparedness can provide peace of mind knowing there is a plan for you and your loved ones.

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The Best Laid Plans

By Suzanne Marriott

Living with MS can be challenging, but planning for an emergency while dealing with MS can be overwhelming, and sometimes “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” to loosely translate Robert Burn’s poetic admonition. That’s what happened to us when I thought I had planned for every contingency and possible emergency before we headed off on a trip from our San Francisco Bay Area home to San Diego for a little R&R.

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It’s Time 

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was 11:27 AM on a Saturday morning. I asked my Husband if he wanted to have a bagel for breakfast. I opened my mouth, and the words would not come out as much as I tried. It was one big stutter. Oddly enough, I did not think much of it. Looking back now, that was a not-so-smart thing to do on my part. I went on with my day as per usual. I went to the grocery store, and when I went to the cashier to check out, I reached for my wallet, and I could not grip it. I was so embarrassed as change spilled all over the floor. I had experienced this before when I was first diagnosed, but it was on the right side of my body, not on the left. I managed to get out of the store and into my car loading up a small number of groceries that I had with just the right side of my body.  

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By Chernise Joseph

If you’re reading this, I know you are already familiar with some type of ‘emergency’, perhaps fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective. Multiple sclerosis in itself has thrown us into a world of constant emergencies, however planning for them is an entirely different ball game that can (and will) make life so much easier.

Let me tell you a little story of my experience with emergencies in the last eighteen months or so. Last year, I took a ‘sabbatical’ and decided to sell everything, leave my home in Texas, and drive over a thousand miles up to Yellowstone National Park. No, it wasn’t because of the show–I hadn’t even heard of ‘Yellowstone’ until I started working there. I just wanted a fresh start and I had never been. Seeing The Tetons in person had been on my bucket list since high school, so it was true nirvana to stand in front of mountains that looked like screen savers.

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Sue Lawrence-Reeder – August 2023 Artist of the Month

MSAA features the work of many talented artists affected by multiple sclerosis as part of our annual MSAA Art Showcase. Each month we share these artists’ inspiring stories and beautiful artwork with you as our Artist of the Month. This month, we celebrate Sue Lawrence-Reeder as the August Artist of the Month. Sue is from Monmouth, ME.

The Bay Bridge
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Ready for Takeoff!

It’s that time of the year… travel season!  Traveling is an exciting way to broaden your horizons, whether it be a day trip, visiting friends, or exploring a new city. The thought of traveling while having MS may be intimidating, but with plenty of planning and preparation, a fun-filled vacation is at your fingers tips, in spite of MS.

An MS diagnosis does not have to stop you from seeing the destination you’ve always wanted to visit. There are many ways to make traveling with MS less stressful and more accessible. Before traveling, have a conversation with your doctor and talk about any health concerns and how to plan and renew any medications you need to take with you.

If you’re traveling by plane, notify the airline ahead of time if you require a wheelchair or any specific accommodation. The airline can arrange transportation throughout the airport to your gate and can assist with expedited access through security.  

When it comes to hotel accommodations, research the hotel ahead of time to ensure they have handicap-accessible rooms and an elevator. Consider booking a room on the ground level if you have limited mobility. Depending on how your medication is stored, confirm with the hotel if the room has a refrigerator so you can store any medications that require refrigeration.  

Take time to research and plan your daily activities beforehand. You want to hit all the top sites that interest you and make the most of your trip! Write down the places you would like to visit and ensure these locations are handicap accessible or have elevator access. It’s important to incorporate rest breaks into your agenda so you do not overexert yourself and become fatigued. Don’t forget to hydrate too! Especially in warmer climates, overheating, and dehydration can be risk factors.  Pack water bottles, and cooling devices, such as a cooling vest, to prevent overheating.

So, take that vacation you’ve been dreaming of and make it a reality! Don’t let Multiple Sclerosis stop you from traveling. With planning and preparation, anything is possible. At the same time, know your limits and plan accordingly. Enjoy and HAVE FUN!

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Travel With MS

By Suzanne Marriott

Photo by Ethan Unzicker on Unsplash

            `                                   Two roads diverged in a wood and I –      

                                                I took the one less traveled by,

                                                And that has made all the difference.

                                                     Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

My husband, Michael, had MS, but that didn’t stop us from doing the things we loved, and the most important was travel. The challenge was learning how, not if, we could do it. Of course, we had to make many changes and accommodations in order to maintain this lifestyle.

When Michael was still walking, using his two hiking poles for balance, we bought a small, used RV and traveled up the coast of California, our home state. It was summer and I was free from my job as a teacher. As my husband’s caregiver, I made sure our little home on wheels was well stocked with all the things we would need, including all the paraphernalia that MS required.

But the day we were to leave, it was too hot and Michael realized he couldn’t drive in that heat. So our first accommodation was to embark on our trip in the evening, when it was cooler. As a former truck driver, Michael was used to driving at night, so off we went, enjoying the moonlight and a dearth of traffic.

With advance reservations secured, we stayed in California state parks in the parking areas authorized for persons with disabilities. This meant we were close to the toilet and shower facilities. All states have qualifications for their state parks’ disability status which provides many advantages, such as park-use discounts. For California information can be found at

There came a time when Michael could no longer walk. His HMO provided him with a power wheelchair, and we bought a used van with hand controls and a wheelchair ramp. Having the van meant that Michael was able to continue driving even as his disability increased. With some seat switching, I could also drive when needed. Soon we begin taking advantage of sightseeing closer to home. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, this included the wine country, San Francisco itself, and the nearby coast and parklands. Sometimes we made longer trips, staying in motels and inns with accessible rooms. As always, the key was preparation and planning ahead.

For Michael and me, travel was something we refused to give up. The challenge was always figuring out how we could continue doing the things that we loved and what modifications we needed to make. Travel allowed us to continue having joy and fulfillment in our lives. If you’re thinking of travel, remember, it takes determination, creative thinking, and planning ahead. So go for it. And have fun!

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Time To Go

It is that time of the year when people are enjoying the summer by traveling and exploring different destinations. Fatigue, bathroom issues, and walking difficulties are a few of the many challenges individuals with MS tend to encounter while traveling. Having MS should not deter you from traveling, it just means that your travel might need a little more detailed preparation and planning.  It is important to note that individuals with disabilities have rights that are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination and makes sure that accommodations are provided to such individuals whenever needed. Here are some tips to keep in mind that will make your travel experience relaxing and hassle-free:

Carry necessary medical paperwork: It is important to have a doctor’s note that details your MS diagnosis. Get all your prescriptions filled in by the neurologist. Carry medicines in daily pillboxes. Also, keep the contact information for your doctors saved on your phone in case you need to reach them in an event of an emergency.

Cooling products: Cooling vests, hats, pillows, and scarves are great to carry especially while traveling to places where the weather can fail to cooperate.

Rent mobility equipment: Mobility equipment like rollators, scooters, wheelchairs, walking aids, etc. can easily be rented. Renting equipment will avoid the hassle of carrying heavy gear.  In many states, you can also have mobility equipment delivered right to your doorstep.

Air travel: While traveling by air, ask for wheelchair assistance while boarding and deplaning. Take advantage of early boarding procedures and seating accommodations. Use elevators and travelators (moving walkways) in the airports whenever possible.

Go with a travel buddy: Having a reliable travel partner can make your travel stress free. It will give you peace of mind just to know there is someone to give you a helping hand whenever you need one.

Seize every opportunity that comes your way and do not let MS stop you from experiencing the joy of travelling. There will always be some unexpected hiccups along the way but planning your travel ahead and knowing your rights will ensure that you have an unforgettable and memorable time.

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