David Lauderdale

Life doesn't end with a wheelchair

For 16 years, Bob Hunter has seen life's most basic functions slowly taken from him.

Yet in a note this week, he writes: "While I can now only walk a bit with a walker, I have much for which to be thankful."

Hunter has multiple sclerosis, a chronic, unpredictable, incurable, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system.

Yet he is thankful.

"I have the love, support and encouragement of my wife, Doris; my eyesight has remained good; I have good health insurance and a good pension; and I live in a community -- Sun City Hilton Head -- with caring people and many accessible amenities and activities," he writes. "I also have incredible assistive equipment -- walkers, a scooter and a ramp van with hand controls. This equipment keeps me moving independently."

Hunter was a 55-year-old federal government employee when he was diagnosed.

"I was clueless," he says of the moment he knew his life would never be the same. "I never thought about people with disabilities. It was not on my radar screen."

Today he sees the disabled as courageous. He sees assistive equipment not as cumbersome hardships but good friends.

He started a group called Physically Challenged Active Adults, which has about 20 paying members and 60 on the email list. Many more could join but are unwilling to admit they are physically challenged. Group members prefer to call it Positive Courageous Able Achievers.

He wants others to see the disabled and understand, "There's an important person inside that body."

Hunter works with Sun City to make things more accessible for the disabled through curb cuts, automatic doors and pool lifts. He lobbies for an improved long-term care system in South Carolina and for stem-cell research. He pushed for a state cigarette-tax increase because of research linking smoking to multiple sclerosis.

His note to me was to spread the word on a number of local fundraisers to benefit research and programs to help people with MS and their families. They are young and old, women and men, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.

He wrote about the "Eat to Beat MS" evening at Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Que in Bluffton on Sept. 28 and the Hilton Head MS Walk at Jarvis Creek Park on Oct. 15. Call Hunter at 843-705-4434 or email him at bhunter9@sc.rr.com for information on those and other fundraisers.

Hunter is 72 and doing all he can with swimming pool exercise and medicine for a body in steady decline. He realizes that research money raised today may benefit the next generation. That would be something else to be thankful for.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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