Multiple Sclerosis and Unstoppable in the Outdoors
I met Eve Fields back in 2006 through an active online community that connected people together around travel to the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana. From her first post, Eve advocated getting out and traveling the world, no matter the budget – or physical ability.
Eve was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) when she was 25. While it has not stopped her from camping, visiting her local fishing hole, collecting stamps in her passport from all over the globe, AND running her own construction company, she has had to learn new ways to enjoy the same activities she did before her diagnosis.
Indeed there are challenges when traveling with a disability. For example, “people with MS are extremely sensitive to body temperature changes. Just a two-degree change can make the difference between the ability to walk or not,” she explained. However, she uses a variety of special clothing and accessories to regulate her body temperature that are available for free for people with MS. She also emphasizes that rest and hydration are critical to maintain with MS, so energy conservation is essential during the week to be able to take on weekend adventures.
There are several organizations that produce annual weekend camps for folks with MS and their caregivers, such as the National MS Society. Some allow caregivers to drop off their MS friends to enjoy a well deserved weekend off, while the camp takes complete care of the participants.
Eve has been involved in several MS support networks and observes that the African-American MS groups do not typically promote and participate in outdoor activities like the groups with predominantly white members — but Eve wants to help change this and is starting by sharing her tips and experiences with the Outdoor Afro community.
Here are Eve’s 6 tips to help people with MS get out of the house and into the outdoors:
1. Know the terrain of your site and the walking distances between your destination and key areas, such as the restroom or parking lot.
2. Make sure an able bodied person can come with you.
3. Know the proximity of the nearest food and drink, or bring your own.
4. Plan for rest breaks and allow extra time to travel and engage with the activity or site.
5. Know the location of the nearest medical facilities and bring medication.
6. Check the condition of your equipment (cane, crutches, walker, and scooter) and have a plan of action in case they fail – your able bodied companion won’t appreciate your scooter battery going dead in the middle of nowhere!
There is much more to share about MS and disabled people of color getting out into the outdoors, so expect more updates, pictures and contributions from Eve in the future!
Are you disabled or have a loved one who is and likes to get outdoors? Got more tips to share? If so, Outdoor Afro wants to hear from you!