CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Imagine you wake up one morning and your hands are numb. The next day and it’s spread to your arms. Another day goes by, now you can’t feel your legs.
This is what happened to Ben Cooper when he was 27-years-old just two weeks removed from his wedding to his college sweetheart.
He went to the doctor over and over again without getting any closer to a diagnosis. Panic set in.
“At that point, I walked into the ER,” Cooper told Jamie Boll. “When I got admitted, they took me to the back and had me walk with one foot in front of the other. And I fell over. So the doctor had me sit down on the exam table and admitted me and said you’re not gonna leave the hospital until we come up with a diagnosis.”
That diagnosis ended up being Multiple Sclerosis. His reaction? He Googled it.
“I had no idea what MS was. Didn’t know anything,” said Cooper. “I had never been in the hospital. Had never been sick prior to this. Played college soccer, I had no injuries. So this was all brand new to me.”
March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month.
A study published just last month found nearly one million Americans are living with it. That’s more than twice what was originally thought.
MS is an autoimmune condition and there is no cure. It translates to “scar tissue in multiple areas."
It’s when our immune system - the system that normally protects us from viruses and bacteria - gets confused, and thinks our brain and spinal cord are foreign. It starts attacking the protective layer around our nerves. When they’re damaged they develop all that scar tissue and all that scar tissue affects communication between our brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
Dr. Matthew Carroro from Novant Health says the symptoms can be different for everyone.
“Because it impacts the brain and spinal cord, it can cause any number of symptoms from fatigue to cognitive problems - thinking and memory issues,” said Dr. Carroro. “It can cause problems with balance, walking, really all over the map.”
He says that is the typical age of diagnosis is 32-years-old. But, it can still be diagnosed in children, or seniors.
In Ben’s case, doctors aren’t sure what factors may have led to his MS. It’s been 12 years since his diagnosis.
He still hasn’t regained all of that feeling he lost in his arms but - here’s the amazing part of his story. With those numb arms and hands he sows seeds, feeds chickens and works his farm. He also coaches youth soccer.
“Over the last couple years I’ve made it a life change to say hey I’m gonna go do things,” said Cooper. “I’m gonna make excuses to do things. Not make excuses not to do things.”