Two Candidates touched by Multiple Sclerosis

This post is from our friend, health advocate Alex O’Connor:

Who would have thought we would have two GOP presidential candidates who have wives afflicted by MS? It certainly puts a spotlight on this disease.

Between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Romney comes out as the more compassionate of the two. But Mitt’s compassion ends at his door step when he pledges to kill the Affordable Care Act.

Neither candidate feels the pain of the families who cannot afford MS. Families like mine cannot afford health care. I am just two years into the diagnosis. I cannot get disability and Medicare is over fifteen years away. Many of us face debts that mount quickly. We fear for our home and our life savings. The medications are thousands of dollars a month. People with MS have to see many kinds of specialists at one time. Then there are the expenses of retrofitting a house for a wheelchair, buying a wheelchair, and buying a van for a wheelchair. I am fortunate that I am not there yet.

Newt buys wife number three expensive jewels from Tiffany’s while many of us struggle to pay medical bills. Mitt talks about his new mansion and makes $10,000 bets while we sweat to pay a mortgage on a fifty year old ranch house.

I would not trade my husband for either candidate. He has been truly tested. The stress for us can be more than the pressure of any political race. For us the stakes are survival. We live day to day. I have a progressive form of the disease so it is not magically going to get easier. We owe more in medical bills from January 2012 than we spent in all of 2011. People, including candidates, think MS means you can easily get government help. Both of these men know that that is not true. Both know how much caring for someone with an illness costs.

What I do know is if either one gets elected as President their policies will not help us. The President and his wife would have the best health care in the world. They would not have to struggle to pay for groceries, gas, medicine, utilities, medical equipment, clothing, and other everyday items. Both pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Neither cares about doing anything to help the ordinary man’s cost of living. They would support the needs of insurance companies, the pharmaceutical corporations, and other health care businesses who give money to their super PACs. Those of us who have only have our voices would lose under a Romney or Gingrich presidency.

What should we learn from each candidates’ reaction to their wives with MS? Newt left his ailing wife for a mistress. And Mitt is willing to stand up for his family but not for mine.


  1. Never expected this

    January 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Looks like Romney is aided by – as Politico puts it – barrage after barrage – of anti-Newt pieces…from the unlikeliest of places, too:

    [Fred] Thompson: Mitt Campaign has ‘Drudge in their back pocket’


  2. Jen

    January 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    It’s always interesting hearing how others deal with MS in the family, especially when its people highly visible to the media and can be seen as potential role models. Unfortunately, this article brings home a really valid point. Dealing with MS for a family in the middle class tax bracket – much less anything lower – is difficult with out REALLY GOOD health insurance. Its frustrating to see how people with the resources to do more can take the costs so lightly. I wish the candidates would do more for those of us with MS who don’t have millions to spend on treatments much less diamonds

  3. Adam Searing

    January 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Both GOP candidates (and candidates for NC’s Governor post for that matter) would do well to spend 5 minutes speaking with Alex.

  4. Joan Beal

    January 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    And Michelle Obama’s father passed after struggling for many years with MS. Barack Obama understands the plight of those with chronic illness, and his healthcare program will help many receive the care they need. MS is the most frequently diagnosed and disabling disease in young adults. I know all to well, my husband has MS. He was the first treated at Stanford University for a vascular condition which has been shown to be related to MS, called CCSVI. I took the research to Stanford after investigating the link to blood flow and MS. CCSVI creates slowed blood flow through the brain. My husband has been in remission since his treatment 3 years ago. For more information on this non-pharmaceutical procedure (which is why it is called “controversaial”), go to http://www.ccsvi.org

  5. Carol Brooke

    January 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    As someone whose family has been touched by MS, I really appreciate this post. The toll that caring for my mother over the 15 years she struggled with this illness took on my father’s health and well being was immense. He had to retire many years early to provide the full-time care she needed. I can’t imagine what our family would have done if my parents had not had the financial means to make that choice. I’m immensely grateful that my mother, a public school teacher, had excellent insurance that paid for much of the very expensive treatment she needed, but know that for most people (the 99%?), such care is completely out of reach. I know that my mother’s insurance would never have been as good had it not been for a strong teacher’s union and collective bargaining rights in her state. I hope the Affordable Care Act will make a difference for others with MS and similar chronic illnesses, and that NC will someday support strong unions, which can make such a difference for health access for their members.

  6. Andy

    January 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    The estimated lifetime cost per individual MS patient is $1.2 million. This includes the cost of drugs used in multiple sclerosis treatment, therapy, cost of living, health care, insurance (where applicable) and several other factors.

    Source: Multiple Sclerosis Statistics

    I really wish you all the best… you should contact every website about MS and politic and offer guestwriting or a interview – Make your situation public!

  7. Alex O'Connor

    January 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the comments. I feel for everyone struggling with health care costs which rise every year. All Americans need to understand if we keep on the current path health care will be only for the wealthy. That just is not right.

    Alex O.

  8. Byron

    February 1, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    With Michelle Obama’s father dying of MS and now Romney and Gingrich, when do you think there will be a bigger reaction to this epidemic. The latest US survey said 2,000,000 responded affirmative when asked if they had MS. Its also becoming prevalent in countries previously nearly absent

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