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Monday, May 2, 2016

Staying strong

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Danny and Laura Thompson (back, from left) with their 12-year-old twins (front, from left) Caleb and Zach Ellis. Zach was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when he was 8. Jason Moon Photo. [Order this photo]
* Area family helping son with MS

Twelve-year-old Zach Ellis has many hobbies.

He likes to ride his bike, draw, play football with his twin brother Caleb and play video games, his favorite game being "Resident Evil."

He likes to listen to Michael Jackson. He enjoys history and science and loves to talk about UFO's and Area 51.

He also enjoys discussing World War II since his great-grandfather served in the war.

By all accounts, Zach is a regular, everyday, average, ordinary 12-year-old. Living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune response attacks a person's central nervous system.

Zach has had a rough go since he was born.

When he was 3, he had meningitis.

"Meningitis can cause MS to surface," Zach's mother, Laura Thompson, said. "From ages 3-8, he spent a lot time in the hospital. (Doctors) thought he had a rare form of meningitis."

Laura said the family went to a clinic in Minnesota and more doctors said they were not sure what was wrong with Zach.

But a neurologist at Riley Children's Hospital mentioned MS when Zach was 7, and his mother feared the worst.

"When he mentioned it to us, I thought we were going to be devastated," she said. "But it was the exact opposite."

Zach was officially diagnosed with MS when he was 8. But the Jackson Township Elementary School fifth-grader said it's just something he has to deal with.

"When I hurt, I can't stand the pain," he said. "I think about it, but it has to be done."

To help alleviate the pain, Zach takes two injections per week of medication in addition to various other medications. As well, he also has chronic lung disease and has to have breathing treatments twice a day.

He has been on medication since 2005.

"We call him our little old man," Laura said.

But the years before the diagnosis were rough.

"You just don't think of children showing up with this," Laura said. "We kind of went through hell those few years."

She said Zach has had to re-learn how to walk two different times and has had eight spinal taps. She added he still gets terrible burning sensations in his legs from time to time.

"We have to do stretches because his legs tighten up," she said. "He does everything the other kids do. But the heat really gets to him."

To the best of her knowledge, Laura said Zach is the youngest person in the Wabash Valley with MS. She said her research showed it's rare in young adults.

"It is hard to diagnose," she said. "But this family has lived with it. Once you have the knowledge to deal with it, it's easier to fight.

"If you sit down and give in, you're going to lose. But if you keep moving, you'll be able to keep moving."

Zach said for the most part, he doesn't think about his affliction. But sometimes, he can't help it.

"It's hard to get out of bed," he said as his mother added he sometimes has trouble sleeping. "But it's not that bad."

"He's a really tough kid," Zach's stepfather Danny Thompson said. "He doesn't dwell on it. We let him go at his own pace."

Zach has plenty of people surrounding him to talk about MS. In fact, his cousin also suffers from MS and Laura said they talk frequently.

She added Zach takes a lot of inspiration from his twin brother Caleb.

"He gets strength from his brother," she said. "In some ways, I think it's been harder on Caleb. He's had to be the one to watch it all."

After the initial diagnosis, Laura said the family spent many nights at Riley.

"It was our second home for a period of years," she said.

However, since Zach has been taking the medication, Danny said the family is at the hospital maybe three-four times per year.

On Sept. 12, the family will take part in Walk For MS at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. It will be the fourth time the family has walked in the event, which is sponsored by the Indiana Chapter of the National MS Society.

"It's mostly people who have it and their families," Laura said. "But it's getting a little bigger each year. We've met a lot of positive people because of it."

Laura said those participating may either take part in a one-mile or three-mile walk and because of summer's sweltering heat, she said the event is typically in September in the morning when it's cooler.

"That's kind of nice," she said. "They can walk at their own pace."

Those interested in taking part may register now until 9 a.m., Sept. 12. The walk will start at 10 a.m.

For more information on the event, or to pre-register, log on to http://walkini.nationalmssociety.org.

Check it out!

The Indiana Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will conduct Walk for MS, Saturday, Sept. 12, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Check-in begins at 9 a.m., and the walk will start at 10.

Walkers may choose either a one- or three-mile walk. Refreshments will be available.

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As an adult with MS I know how difficult and frustrating this disease can be. It's sad that someone so young would have to deal with this but Zach seems to be a shining example and inspiration to all of us.

-- Posted by asil on Thu, Aug 20, 2009, at 5:11 AM

Zach, You are such a brave kid and your family is simply amazing!

-- Posted by ugotitdude on Thu, Aug 20, 2009, at 7:22 AM

God's blessings to you all!

-- Posted by sassypants on Thu, Aug 20, 2009, at 7:34 AM

I love you guys !!!! This is such a great family - hang in there Zach !!!!

-- Posted by freebird on Thu, Aug 20, 2009, at 9:51 AM

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