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Martika is 37 years old and has been a member of the Kernersville YMCA for one year. Five years ago at the age of 32 , Martika was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

There are four different types of MS and within each type the symptoms can vary from mild to extreme depending on the affected individual. Typical symptoms associated with MS are loss of balance and muscle coordination, slurred speech , tremors, stiffness, bladder problems, numbness and cognitive difficulties. Symptoms may come and go or may last for long periods of time.

"We were living in Macon Georgia at the time and the very first symptom I had was frequent urination. Thinking I had a bladder infection I went to see my gynecologist who sent me to a urologist," Martika recalls. "The urologist sent me to a neurologist who, after a battery of tests, diagnosed the MS. Not long after I was diagnosed I woke up in the middle of the night and the right leg was numb and felt weak, and had that pins and needles feeling. My neurologist sent me to a physical therapist and the exercises i did actually helped. My leg function returned to normal and I stopped doing the exercises. Well within six months the symptoms returned and this time they were even worse. It got to the point where I would fall, I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs, and I could barely drive because of the loss of use in my right leg.

Right about that time we moved to Kernersville, North Carolina. I called and made a doctor's appointment but couldn't get in for several months. My symptoms continued to get worse. and I could no longer walk by myself because I couldn't lift my right leg.  I would desperately hang on to my husband to get around or furniture walk to navigate around the house. I fell often if I tried to walk unsupported. Then one day my husband saw an article in the news paper about Dan Nowak, who is the founder of the Millennium Team. They primarily work with stroke survivors but their motto is that they fight disability with fitness.

So I called Dan, and he assured me that he could help. We meet at the Kernersville YMCA the following week. At the time I remember I used to sit in my van in the parking lot and wait for Dan to get there so he could help me inside. Dan started me working on Cybex machines and I had trouble even lifting ten pounds on some of the machines. And some I couldn't even do. He was so encouraging and wouldn't let me give up. He had to help me get from one machine to another, and he had to help me get on the machines. I came twice a week at first and over time noticed an improvement in my strength and the functional ability of my leg. It's been one year since I began his program and I now train three days a week. I can fo the complete Cybex circuit (15 machines). I can leg press 130 pounds, which is a far cry from the ten pounds I struggled with when I started! I have more confidence in my daily activities and I no longer require help walking. Weight training has changed my life, and allowed me to feel like a more normal person.

Martika is such an inspiration to many people at the YMCA. She can often be found encouraging others and even helping Dan with some of his clients who have trouble maneuvering from machine to machine.

 

 

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WRITTEN BY Martika