HEALTH

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

There is no cure yet for mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, so how do you fight this de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness? Fri­day finds out.

bat­tery of tests, in­clud­ing an MRI and spinal tap, he was di­ag­nosed with MS.

Was he scared af­ter the di­ag­no­sis, par­tic­u­larly be­cause it was a lesser-known dis­ease?

‘No,’ says Dar­waish, his face a pic­ture of calm­ness. ‘I wasn’t up­set or an­gry or scared. I was very pos­i­tive and was sure I would be able to over­come this with God’s grace.’

That pos­i­tiv­ity and op­ti­mism would be a ma­jor fac­tor in help­ing him get back on his feet. ‘The doc­tors in Ger­many pre­scribed some med­i­ca­tion for me but when I did a bit of re­search I found that the medicines could have se­vere side ef­fects; they could ruin the bones, the blood, lead to im­po­tency…’

In­stead, he de­cided to rely on phys­io­ther­apy. But once he re­turned, in 1995, Dar­waish found he was not able to move his leg at all. ‘That at­tack lasted a year,’ he says. ‘Then mirac­u­lously I got better. I still don’t know how. I could drive and walk. I guess my reg­u­lar ex­er­cises helped.’

Then last Novem­ber Dar­waish came down with high fever and el­e­vated blood pres­sure. He also had a re­lapse of MS and was rushed to Cleve­land Clinic in Abu Dhabi where he was di­ag­nosed with pneu­mo­nia. Once that was treated, he was re­ferred to Amana Health­care in Dubai where he goes for check ups for his MS. He needs to take an in­jec­tion a week to keep the dis­ease un­der con­trol. How has the dis­ease changed his life? ‘In just about ev­ery way,’ says Dar­waish. ‘MS, un­like a lot of other dis­eases, af­fects the en­tire body be­cause it af­fects nerves. It de­stroys your sys­tem. All of a sud­den you can’t do any­thing; you get tired eas­ily. But I try to be as ac­tive as I can.’

Stay­ing ac­tive is one of the best ther­a­pies for the con­di­tion, say ex­perts.

‘There are many med­i­ca­tions called dis­ease-mod­i­fy­ing ther­a­pies that can re­duce the num­ber of at­tacks and the num­ber of new or ac­tive le­sions in the brain/spinal cord,’ says Dr Amar. ‘Treat­ments [can] re­duce the dis­ease’s im­pact on pa­tients and in­crease their func­tion­al­ity. And phys­i­cal ther­apy and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is an im­por­tant part of MS man­age­ment.’

Dar­waish also de­cided to al­ter his diet plan. ‘My wife, who has been do­ing a lot of re­search on­line on MS, found a diet that helps re­duce symp­toms of this dis­ease,’ says Dar­waish, who is a con­sul­tant for a clutch of com­pa­nies in Dubai. Called Pa­leo Diet, it in­volves eat­ing only or­ganic food; lean meats and fish, fruits, veg­eta­bles, nuts and seeds, and cer­tain types of oils and fats. Grains, milk and milk prod­ucts, re­fined sugar, and other pro­cessed foods are out.

‘I have around nine cups of veg­gies a day,’ says the fa­ther of one, stand­ing up and tak­ing a few steps with­out his walker. ‘A woman with MS in the US who has been on this diet says it has helped change her life for the better.’ Now, over a decade since he has been on the diet, and cou­pled with a gen­er­ous dose of pos­i­tiv­ity, Dar­waish is able to move around on his own, re­ly­ing on the walker only in­fre­quently.

Up around 4am, he ex­er­cises for a cou­ple of hours in­clud­ing on a tread­mill, has his break­fast be­fore drop­ping his son to school and head­ing off to of­fice where he helps a few com­pa­nies with govern­ment re­lated pro­ce­dures.

‘I re­turn by 1pm be­cause heat and sun is bad for MS. It leaves you weak and de­hy­drated; sun is the first en­emy of MS.’

Dar­waish is pin­ning hopes on re­ports of a new med­i­ca­tion that claims to re­verse the con­di­tion. ‘An in­jec­tion costs around Dh25,000 but I’m look­ing for­ward to it.’

Dr Amar, how­ever, clar­i­fies that there is

Over a DECADE since he has been on the diet, Dar­waish is able to move around on his OWN re­ly­ing on the WALKER only in­fre­quently

no cure for the dis­ease as yet. ‘There is no cure for MS at this time. How­ever, there are many on­go­ing tri­als to better understand the dis­ease and find more ef­fec­tive treat­ments and hope­fully a cure for the dis­ease,’ he says.

Mean­while, Dar­waish works on stay­ing ac­tive with a pas­sion. ‘I used to run 10km ev­ery day. Now I strug­gle to walk 10m. It can be de­press­ing,’ he says, for the first time a shade of sad­ness fleet­ing over his face.

Turn­ing away he gen­tly dabs the corners of his eyes. ‘But when you are con­nected with God and keep all your hope with him, you can go through it all,’ he says.

Is there a mes­sage he has for other suf­fer­ers of MS?

‘Stay pos­i­tive. Be ac­tive. Al­ways,’ says Dar­waish, the pos­i­tiv­ity quickly re­turn­ing to his face and at­ti­tude.

‘I of­ten thank God that I don’t have ALS [Amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis, a mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease where the av­er­age sur­vival from on­set to death is two to four years]. At least I’m alive.’

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