Social worker is MS Volunteer of Year


January 27, 2000|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DARLENE GOATLEY would like to see us all become more knowledgeable about what she calls the "hidden disease" -- multiple sclerosis.

"Part of the struggle of MS is trying to describe it to other people," says Goatley, a licensed clinical social worker from Arnold who is a volunteer with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Southern Maryland chapter. "It affects every part of a person's life, and yet, if you look at a person with MS, you might not have any idea there's anything wrong."

According to the society, the symptoms of MS include extreme fatigue, impaired vision, loss of balance and muscle coordination, slurred speech, tremors, stiffness, bowel and bladder problems, difficulties with gait, and, in severe cases, partial or complete paralysis.

Because of her efforts to improve the lives of those with MS, Goatley, 43, was named the 1999 Southern Maryland Volunteer of the Year by the society's state chapter.

Her first experience with multiple sclerosis patients was in Oregon, when she became part of an MS rehabilitation team at Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital.

Goatley moved to Maryland five years ago. Unable to find work in the field of MS, she began volunteering with the Maryland chapter, giving presentations to patients and speaking on a variety of topics, especially about the emotional aspects of the disease.

"I speak about sexuality in MS, relationships in MS and depression in MS," she says. "Depression is a very big problem in this disease.

"Three-quarters of the people with MS are women," says Goatley. "And it has very special ways in which it affects women. Women tend to be the caregivers. But they can't do it at the same level [with MS], yet they remain the caregivers."

Goatley is married to Larry Innis, a congressional lobbyist for the Marine Retailers Association of America, and they have a 4-year-old son, Drew.

She says her goal is to help women deal with their illness.

One of the cruelest aspects of the disease is its tendency to strike people in the prime of life, between the ages of 20 and 40.

Goatley, who works at the Center for Neuro-Rehabilitation, a private facility in Annapolis for people with various types of brain injury, also serves on a clinical advisory commission with other professionals volunteering their time to develop educational programs.

The news on the medical front is encouraging. Use of magnetic resonance imaging has improved diagnosis.

The test reveals sclerotic patches of tissue within the central nervous system that are left when myelin, the protective insulation surrounding nerve fibers, is destroyed by MS.

There has been a dramatic breakthrough with new medications in recent years. "By taking these drugs early on in your illness, you'll still have symptoms, but the disease will not progress as quickly and significantly," Goatley says.

While the drugs are expensive and of value only if taken for many years, she says, they are covered by insurance -- and for those who are not insured, drug manufacturers have established funds to help pay for them.

You can support the Maryland chapter by participating in the 2000 MS Walk, a National Multiple Sclerosis Society event planned for the weekend of April 8-9 at 13 sites -- among them Ocean City, Annapolis and Columbia, according to statewide walk coordinator Becky Boykin.

For information on the various walk sites, contact the state chapter at 1-800-FIGHTMS or

The Southern Maryland chapter is at 8338 Veterans Highway, Suite 103A, Millersville 21108. Information: 410-987-3902.

Helping Shelby

Last week, this column reported on the efforts of many to help 7-year-old Shelby Tribull of Cape St. Claire in her recovery from an April accident that left her with traumatic brain injury -- unable to sit up unassisted or to speak.

Her family reports that she is progressing well -- she has begun to eat on her own. But the family's insurance covered only six months of rehabilitation, and the little girl is just beginning a long road to recovery.

A fund has been set up to help pay her medical bills. Donations may be sent to the Shelby Tribull Medical Fund at Annapolis National Bank, 1372-B, Cape St. Claire Road, Annapolis 21401.

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