Nurse uses own experiences to help patients

By Scott Bandle 
Suburban Journals
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 2:28 PM CDT 

Newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis patients are anxious and have a lot of questions about their conditions. Some find answers with Bridgeton resident Michelle Keating.

She was diagnosed with MS in 1981, but works full shifts as a registered nurse at St. John's Mercy Hospital in the David C. Pratt Cancer Center. She co-facilitates the MS, Fun, Food and Friends, a support group for MS patients.

For her efforts, the Bridgeton City Council recently honored Keating with a plaque and a resolution.

"I live with it on a day-to-day basis, but I don't let it stop me," Keating, 54, said. "It can be tough, because MS is hard on your body."

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. It affects the brain, spinal and optic nerves. Symptoms include trouble with walking, eyesight, and bowel and bladder control. Keating walks with a leg brace and a crutch.

"Michelle is super because she has had MS for a long time and still works," said Debbie Morrissey, 58, an MS patient who also is the support group's co-facilitator. "It's a reassurance. Sometimes, you feel like you're the only one who has it."

The disease didn't stop Keating from starting a family. Her doctor said she could have children. However, he also urged her to think of all of the work that goes into raising a family.

Keating had no doubts. She and her husband Rick, 54, have two children, Colleen, 27, and Shannon, 24.

"I cannot imagine not having a family," she said. "My children are so important part in my life."

The disease also affects other members of her family. Keating has a brother and a sister with MS.

Because of these experiences and her counseling, Keating became involved with national MS support groups and money-raising events.

She is on the board of directors for the Gateway Area Chapter of the National MS Society, which serves 90 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Keating also raises money for MS research. She and other people make jewelry called MS Awareness Beaded Bangles. Since 2005, they have raised $10,000.

"You keep working and don't give up," Keating said. "It helps to have a good sense of humor to get you through the day."

Multiple Sclerosis facts

  • 2.5 million people worldwide, have multiple sclerosis
  • 400,000 people in the United States have multiple sclerosis
  • Average age of onset is 20 to 40 years of age
  • Among young people, the most common disease of the central nervous system
  • About 45 percent of people with MS are not severely affected
  • Women with MS outnumber men about 2-1
  • The risk of contracting Multiple Sclerosis is 1 in 800


Reach reporter Scott Bandle at  or 821-2462 ext. 734