Children Diagnosed With MS On Rise

Families Raise Awareness About Debilitating Disease

Wednesday was World Multiple Sclerosis Day, and two local families spoke out about how the disease has affected them.

MS is usually diagnosed in people between the ages 20 and 50 years old, but some doctors are becoming concerned that more cases of young people are popping up in Kern County.

"Medical experts used to think that children didn't get MS, but now many are being diagnosed. This helps raise awareness for pediatricians to look out for the disease," said Kim Kotrla of the National MS Society.

There are just under 1,000 MS cases in Kern County and 5 percent of those are in children. Two Bakersfield moms are speaking out about their daughters’ recent diagnoses.

"Now we are seeing more kids with this disease. We need more people digging in and looking into why this is happening," said Shelly Gilliland, whose 12-year-old daughter, Taylor Prather, was recently diagnosed.

Joy Amaro's 14-year-old daughter Durer, was also recently diagnosed with MS.

Amaro said their medical specialist in San Francisco was shocked to hear that they were from Kern County, because they have had an increasing number of patients from this area.

"That makes me think what's going on here in Kern County, it's worrisome," said Amaro.

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive, debilitating disease. MS is an unpredictable disease of the nervous system that disrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body.

"I have aches and pains in my legs, arms and my head. It affects my daily activities, activities," said Taylor.

"It's harder than people thing it is, I know it's not as bad as cancer, but I have to deal with it for the rest of my life," said Durer.

The disease affects the whole family’s daily routine and makes parents feel helpless.

"Seeing your child go through the pains of MS, staying up with them at night holding their hands, trying to get them to sleep because they are in so much discomfort, it's challenging," said Amaro.

Taylor's passion was to participate in dance competitions, but since the diagnoses, her body was in too much pain to continue.

"You always have to keep a positive attitude and remember no matter what you are going through, it will work out," said Taylor.

Amaro was a typical teenager with normal activities, like bike and skateboard riding, but she hasn't used those since the pain has gotten worse.

Her medication has caused a 50 pound weight gain and she hasn't seen her school friends since the diagnosis. She has been home-schooled since then.

"I am kind of self conscious seeing my friends, because they don't know anything about what I have been going through. Maybe when they see it on the news, they will know," said Amaro.

Taylor and Durer haven't met yet, but they have been in commutation with each other through text messaging. Medical experts say, it's important for anyone with the disease for have a support group.

Both families say their faith in God has carried them through the tough times and pray that a cure can be found during their lifetimes.

About 400,000 Americans have MS. The symptoms may mysteriously occur and then disappear. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. Still, MS symptoms can hurt quality of life.

The whole idea behind World MS Day is the opportunity to raise awareness about the disease and to strengthen the network of people living with MS across the world.

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