Finding Help for Multiple Sclerosis

by Amy C.

Amy C.By age 33, I had lost my faith in doctors. Then the OHSU Multiple Sclerosis Center and Dr. Dennis Bourdette changed my life.

I'm a mom, a wife and a country singer. My symptoms started around age 21 with crippling migraines. Doctors told me I just had to deal with those. I had pain, numbness, seizures and vision problems for years, and went to specialists and hospitals all over the country. On my 28th birthday, I went for an MRI and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

I was on tour with my band at that point, doing 300 shows a year. I kept that pace because the record labels were looking at me. When they found out I had MS, they didn't want to sign me after all.

Multiple sclerosis is an invisible, complex disease that's difficult to understand, and five years later I still hadn't found anyone who could help me manage it. I was frustrated and discouraged. In 2007, I did a benefit concert for the Pre-Mo Charities fundraiser to support the OHSU MS Center. After the event, Dr. Dennis Bourdette called me. None of the specialists I'd seen would ever actually call up a patient, but he said, "Come see me next Wednesday."

Dr. Bourdette spent an hour with me and just talked, listening to all my symptoms. He was going on vacation the next week, and he read my medical chart on the plane there and back. He called in other specialists to fix things, like dental problems caused by my MS medications. The MS Center at OHSU is like the Mayo Clinic – they run like a well-oiled machine, and they find answers. They never send you out the door still scratching your head over what's wrong.

I feel so empowered by the MS Center and Dr. Bourdette. When I go there, they say, "Tell us what you need." They're the first doctors who have ever given me the controls. With them, I may have this disease, but the disease does not have me.

Whenever there's a breakthrough, Dr. Bourdette is on top of it. If I want to know whether a new medication will work for me, he knows the answer. I look forward to the day that MS medication comes in pills instead of shots — OHSU is pushing in that direction. They're the foremost in MS treatment, and we're very lucky to have them.

I have losses from my MS, but I'm doing well. I still perform because I want kids, families and other patients to see that someone with the disease can pursue her dreams. Dr. Bourdette sees me whenever I'm sick or need to deal with something. Everything my disease took from me, emotionally and mentally, the OHSU MS Center has given back.