World Multiple Sclerosis Day amid COVID Pandemic – Dr. Rao V. L. Papineni
World Multiple Sclerosis Day (World MS Day) celebrated this week is aimed at bringing the world together to campaign with everyone affected by multiple sclerosis. Sadly, we lost a dear member of the family to MS a week before and made us revisit the pains of the MS and its effects. The account here is both to raise the awareness of the disease and describe the gentle characters who bravely fight against it on a regular basis. Smt. Rama Devi Koka represents one such journey. Madras raised and settled in Hyderabad, was educated at SIET College, Chennai. Learning dance at a tender age of five, she mastered the classical dance, ‘Bharatanatyam and was a highly accomplished dancer. Her first Multiple Sclerosis [MS] attack was in 1980, at the prime of her life. She was paralyzed from the neck down. Since then she fought many more attacks that recurred with increasing intensity every subsequent decade. What helped her survive 40 years of the disease was 40 years of her will power and love from closed ones, aided with a panoply of routine events comprising daily physiotherapy, a positive attitude, daily meditation, and devotion to God. Such was her unflinching resolve that she fought MS at all three levels- physical, medical, and spiritual. She finally succumbed to an onslaught in May 2020.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves. There is no cure yet for this disease but there are Disease-Modifying Therapies (DMT) which help in reducing the severity and delay relapses. Since MS is a slow, degenerative disease, physiotherapy is particularly important for MS patients as it helps them improve their mobility. The disease normally hits people in the prime of their lives and while they live a normal span of life, it is a traumatic one with increasing levels of disability. The protracted nature of the disease affects the entire family of the MS patient financially, physically and emotionally. There are some similarities in immune pathways seen here in MS and other autoimmune disease and ALSO in curren tcorona virus actions.
COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted the unhealthy indirectly- The Lockdown adversity, related anxiety, health workers mobility restrictions, etchave indeed taken a toll globally on patients with preexisting morbidities. In today’s troubled times of COVID-19 loosing dear ones becomes even more painful, considering travel constraints for last visit etc. Losing Rama Devi and watching the last rites from 10000 KM away here in USA, through the new online technologies was even more painful. All I could do is silently prayand write a small poem as a tribute to the Namba Madras Sellangai Osai.
Dr. Rao V. L. Papineni is a Molecular Translational Medicine & Diagnostics scientist and an adjunct faculty member at University of Kansas. He received his doctoral degree in Biochemistry from University of Hong Kong (British Terr). Dr. Papineni had his early education from University of Madras, where he earned his Bachelors and Masters Degree. After ten years in Research and Faculty positions at University of Hong Kong and Baylor college of Medicine (USA), he joined Kodak, USA. As a distinguished scientist, he initiated advanced research programs to study Infections and oncology utilizing molecular imaging and nanotechnology based molecular tools. Dr. Papineni has made several inventions and chaired scientific sessions in International Biomedical Meetings and serves on the editorial board of Nanotech and Experimental Pharmacology journals. He also serves on the National Cancer Institute NCI Study Sections.