MoBap MS patient Matthew Porter was cheered on by two of his nurses from the MS Infusion Center, Julie and Kara, during his 100-mile run from St. Charles to Jefferson City to build awareness around Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Running to Advocate for Missourians Living With MS
Matthew Porter was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2014 at the age of 37 and has used his condition as a catalyst for change in his life. As a husband and father of three teenage children, he has a passion for living life to the fullest. “Having MS has made me more aware of my time, and I want to invest it in things that matter and make a difference.”
Matthew has relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), the most common form of the auto-immune disease. People living with MS can experience flare-ups of neurological symptoms, such as vision problems, numbness, weakness, imbalance and fatigue. These episodes are followed by partial or complete remissions/recovery periods. While there is no cure for MS, treatments can reduce these attacks and prevent long-term disability.
To raise awareness and advocate on behalf of the thousands of Missourians living with MS, Matthew ran 100 miles from St. Charles to Jefferson City on February 27. As an ultra-marathoner, Matthew has completed races and runs as long as 120 miles since his diagnosis. Joining him on the Katy Trail run to Jefferson City was Jon Franko, a local business owner who also has MS. “We trained in preparation for the run, and we completed the distance in one 24 to 30-hour segment,” Matthew said, explaining that they both ran the total distance.
He added that they planned the timing of the run to coincide with March 1, the beginning of MS awareness month, and the 2022 State Action Day for MS. “We wanted people to see our commitment to raising awareness, how we fight for every single step, and what MS can look like.”
In addition to the 100-mile run, the pair raised over $115,000 for the National MS Society. The money will help fund MS research as well as programs and services that help people with MS live their best lives.
“I have a debt to those who raised funding before us and developed the treatments I have the privilege of taking now. At the same time, I have an obligation to make sure that there is awareness and funding for the next round to help those who will be diagnosed with MS in the future,” Matthew said, looking forward to a time when there will be a cure.
Giving people who are diagnosed with MS hope is also Matthew’s mission. “I struggled for the first 12 months after my diagnosis,” he admitted. “I found therapy in my continued running, yoga, and meditation. Putting on my shoes and getting out on the trails reminds me that I have a say in the course of my multiple sclerosis.”
He added that every mile run is worth it to inspire those with MS to “do what they can and never give up.”
Experiencing Flare-Ups & Managing Relapses
In 2015, Matthew had a flare-up that occurred during work where he lost the use of his hands for two and one-half days. “I readjusted my schedule, so my face-to-face meetings took place right away, and I moved my written correspondence later in the week. Nobody noticed I had a problem.”
Dr. Barry Singer, Missouri Baptist Medical Center neurologist and director of The MS Center for Innovations in Care, explained that because MS is unpredictable and affects each patient differently, the frequency of attacks or relapses varies. To prevent relapses and slow the progression of the disease, medication is prescribed.
He added, “There have been major advances in therapy over the past decade that have changed the course of MS. We now have over 20 medications that can reduce disease activity. Because we are better able to control the disease, patients have had a much better quality of life with less disability long-term compared to the past.”
Matthew’s symptoms subsided, and he had regular visits with his neurologist at MoBap as well as routine brain and spine MRIs to monitor new disease activity. “Routine brain MRIs are important with relapsing-remitting MS because new disease activity – seen on MRI images – is more common than new symptoms and may indicate the need for different therapy,” Dr. Singer said.
Matthew’s first relapse happened in 2021, and he experienced some issues with his right leg with a small amount of foot drop. An MRI showed increased lesions on his brain and spine. As a result, his doctors switched his treatment from oral medication to an infusion treatment given at MoBap’s MS Infusion Center every four weeks.
Located on Missouri Baptist’s main campus, the MS Infusion Center is adjacent to MoBap’s MS Center for Innovations in Care and the offices of neurologists who care for patients with multiple sclerosis. Staffed by highly-skilled, compassionate nurses who oversee patient infusions, the Infusion Center focuses on patient comfort. There are reclining chairs and televisions. If a patient wants privacy, a curtain can be pulled around their space.
“Because the Centers work together, there was no delay in starting treatment. I got my MRI results on Friday afternoon and had an appointment at the MS Infusion Center on Monday to start a three-day course of steroids to address the new symptoms I was having,” Matthew explained.
He added that he likes that the Infusion Center treats only patients with multiple sclerosis and addresses their specific needs. “From the moment I stepped through the door, I felt supported. Nurses Julie and Kara are simply amazing. They are friendly and helpful and focus on caring for the person rather than just treating the disease.”
Since starting the infusion treatment, Matthew has fully recovered from his relapse. As he looks back on his February 27 run, he is thankful for the opportunity to show others what can be possible with MS. “Life isn’t perfect, but that’s the miracle of humanity. Even though there may come a day when I need assistance walking, I want to maximize what I have every single day.”
For more information about the MS Infusion Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center call 314-996-4186.