Not accustomed to attending camp in August, Audrey Nordquist, rural Paynesville, found it enjoyable and different.
Nordquist worked in the Meeker County Recorders office in Litchfield 36 years. Seven years ago she retired to enjoy her home on Lake Koronis.
Two years ago, Nordquist was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) a chronic disease of the central nervous system. At first (four years ago) the doctors thought she had Guillain Barre Syndrome, but an MRI showed it was MS. ďItís amazing I can go through life never being sick a day then to discover I have MS,Ē she said. ďA neurologist told me I probably had MS 30 years. It was dormant in my body until just four years ago.Ē
Nordquist had been an avid snowmobiler and outdoors person. It was stressed to her to keep doing activities that she always did before MS as long as possible to keep her sanity.
This summer Nordquist was sent a letter asking if she was interested in attending MS Camp at Camp Courage in Maple Lake. ďI thought, why not, after reading the letter. I felt guilty about being at camp as I was one of the better ones there. Some of the campers were totally helpless,Ē she said. This was her first visit to Camp Courage.
Throughout the week, the campers had a full agenda to keep them busy. Nordquist signed up for the following activities: cookout, aquatics, rubber stamping, pontoon, wood crafts, gardening, MS medication, and techniques for wellness.
Other activities available to the campers were boating, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, table games, nail care, make-up workshops, casino nights, massage therapy, and swimming.
ďVolunteers made sure everybody took part in the activities,Ē Nordquist said. ďEvery night there was something going on.Ē One of the highlights this year was a ceremony to renew wedding vows of a couple that was married at MS Camp 10 years earlier.
Campers report the most meaningful part of MS Camp is spending time with people who understand and experience similar symptoms, disabilities and lifestyle changes that may result from having MS. Campers learned from each other about the disease and ways to cope. Best of all, campers with disabilities feel that for one week they are the majority, rather than the minority in a world designed for people without any physical disabilities.
ďThe volunteer counselors were fantastic,Ē Nordquist said. ďThe volunteers were from all walks of life and were all ages. At times seeing the others at camp was depressing because I could see what my future held for me,Ē she added. ďBut I canít dwell on that as I have to keep doing what Iím able to do for as long as I can.Ē
Nordquist is still able to drive a car, tend to her flower gardens, do the majority of her housework but she has given up snowmobiling, teaching Sunday school and mowing her own lawn. Nordquist is also a hospice volunteer in Litchfield, enjoys doing water aquatics, and crocheting.
An estimated third of a million Americans have MS, with nearly 200 new cases diagnosed every week, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Resulting symptoms may include severe fatigue, impaired vision, loss of balance and coordination, slurred speech, tremors, muscle weakness, stiffness, numbness and tingling and, in the most severe cases, paralysis. The symptoms vary significantly from person to person and within the same person over time.
Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 20 to 40 and is more common in women, affecting three females for every male.
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