|Danny Velasquez accepts his Living with Hope award with wife Tami.|
There is hope and life after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, according to Danny Velasquez.
Velasquez was diagnosed with the illness which can have drastic physical, psychological and financial impacts in 1997. And since learning of the opportunities available within the Utah chapter of the National MS Society, he has dedicated his life to local, state and national MS organizations and activities.
Velasquez was honored at the 2007 Dinner of Champions by the society, receiving the organization's living with hope award. The honor recognizes community champions, according to the MS society.
"I was diagnosed when I was 37," said Velasquez. "And at that time, I had been experiencing symptoms for almost three years not knowing what was going on. When I was diagnosed there was no information or support groups for anyone with MS in the Carbon and Emery area."
According to Velasquez, the situation changed when Dee Dee Fox of the national society came to the Castle Valley area and started a local MS support and educational group.
"Dee Dee was really a God sent but it was difficult in the beginning to get local people to step up and help lead the program, so me and my wife, Tami, became involved," explained Velasquez. "The Carbon-Emery MS support group is now here to continue helping those with MS cope with the disease."
Velasquez reported that his worst symptoms include severe vertigo which leads to nausea that has resulted in his hospitalization twice.
On a daily basis Velasquez fights chronic fatigue and cognitive impairment which can make it difficult for him to function. He works full-time as a control room operator for PacifiCorp in addition to attending college.
"I have gone back to college to try and keep my mind fresh," said Velasquez. "Your mind is like a muscle and if you don't exercise it, it gets soft on you."
According to MS society information, the disease interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body and stops individuals from moving.
Every hour in the United States, someone is diagnosed with MS, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.
Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted but advances in research and treatment are moving closer to a cure.
The society reports that most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with more than twice as many women as men contracting the disease. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the United States, over 13,000 Utahns and 2.5 million world wide.
"The number of individuals diagnosed with MS is 180 percent of the national average here in Carbon and Emery counties," said Velasquez. "That is why education and support are so vital here."
MS is attributed to a combination of environmental and genetic factors, occurring more frequently among people of northern European ancestry and in higher latitudes north of the equator, according to society data.
Utah is located in a temperate latitude north of the equator with many Utahns being of Northern European heritage, resulting in one of the highest incidence rates of MS in the nation.
Information from the MS society states, "MS stops people from moving, the National MS Society exists to make sure it doesn't." This statement has held true for Velasquez.
According to information given during his award ceremony, he has just finished his first draft of a book dealing with the effects that multiple sclerosis has upon men, titled: Many Surprises - A Man's Perspective of Living with Multiple Sclerosis.
In spite of living with multiple sclerosis, the Carbon County resident is determined to enjoy his life.
"I have found that there is so much more to experience and enjoy in my life, with or without MS," said Velasquez.