MS symptoms: Rural Challenges

IMG_3059Living in rural Alaska can be seen as an adventure, experiencing life in the last frontier, roughing it like most American’s can never imagine. Living in an remote area of Alaska with MS, now that is another story all together. A traveling physician’s assistant does visit Thorne Bay a couple of times per month, though unpredictably, with many patients to see and from a clinic I do not attend. My physician is an hour’s drive away when the roads are good. Speaking of roads, Prince of Wales Island roads are curvy, through the mountains, isolated, and with little traffic. It is a beautiful drive.

To visit the neurologist or other specialists I drive 90 minutes across this remote island to catch a ferry that will take a total of four hours with the wait time required for boarding. Then I will catch a cab or walk 15 minutes to the airport ferry in Ketchikan where I will boat over to the Ketchikan International Airport. There I will board an Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. Once in Seattle I will ride the shuttle bus to the car rental location where I pick-up a car, head to the hotel to check-in and then off to dinner. That is a treat. In the morning I drive to the Swedish Medical Center where I try to get in all of my appointments and tests in one day. That evening or the next morning I will return the car, catch a flight back to Ketchikan and sometimes, when I am lucky, I will fly directly to Thorne Bay on a commuter float plane saving me the ferrying experience and arriving home at night.

Fortunately, I have had some doctors work with me by phone and email in critical situations. My doctor in Craig, Alaska has a solid understanding of MS and offers great suggestions. I’m in good hands with him. Finally, being isolated means I “wait and see” before seeing a doctor, which often allows things to pass and saves me time and money. If I were to have an emergency, there is always the Alaska Coast Guard, which I am very grateful to know they are there to get me if I need them.

About the Author

Melissa Cook
Melissa Cook is the author of As a retired high school teacher and school district administrator, she chooses to share her MS story in hopes of benefiting others.