Transverse Myelitis Association
Volume 4 Issue 1
March 2001

Page 20
Fourth Meeting of the New York Transverse Myletitis Support Group
Pam Schechter


On November 11th, 2000, we assembled again at Ben's Deli and Restaurant at the Bay Terrace Shopping Mall in Bayside, Queens for the fourth luncheon and support group meeting for the members of the New York TM Support Group. Twenty-six persons, including members, their families and friends from various parts of New York State and New Jersey, attended. As before, I had reserved use of a private room available to us from 12 noon until 4 PM. For this occasion, the restaurant provided us with individually served meals, which consisted of soup, sandwich and desert.

After we finished the eating, I made some important introductory remarks including information about the upcoming Transverse Myelitis Symposium to be held on July 12 -15th, 2001, at the Holiday Inn, at the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. I also discussed the possibility of starting a TM satellite clinic in New York City, staffed by doctors from Johns Hopkins, who would commute from Baltimore to New York City about every 10-12 weeks. This proposal elicited an enthusiastic response from the members, because the clinic would be conveniently located for most of the tri-state members.

Hope Klopchin, who is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in counseling psychology, led the support group discussion. She is currently interning at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Ms. Klopchin opened the discussion by telling us something about her background, including her academic credentials. Most significant was that she has TM, contracted when she was 12 years old. She explained about her ordeal with the disorder and that it took her approximately six years to fully recover. After her recovery, she assiduously pursued an academic and then professional career and now is completing her doctorate at the State University at Buffalo, NY.

One of her main themes focused on the physical and emotional reclaiming of yourself after a serious illness. At some point, members joined in the general discussion with personal observations and experiences with TM. One member told of her trip to the Johns Hopkins Transverse Myelopathy Center where she was examined and evaluated by the doctors at the clinic. Dr. Douglas Kerr is personally supervising her treatment in collaboration with her local doctor. Another member cautioned about taking new drugs without thoroughly researching its effects on TM. She told us about taking Zocor, a drug used to lower her cholesterol, and how it caused extreme muscle weakness. Her doctor, at one point, diagnosed her with Multiple Sclerosis. When she stopped taking the drug, the weakness abated and she felt much better.

Another member spoke of how depressed and helpless she felt after her diagnosis. It was suggested that she seek professional counseling to alleviate her depression and anxiety. Many members discussed the effects of having Transverse Myelitis on their families and how encouraging it has been to receive the support and help from their children and spouses. Ms. Klopchin ended the meeting by discussing the possibility that TM, like all chronic diseases, can lead to moderate or severe neurological deficits. These deficits may cause depression and anxiety, but if recognized [she listed common symptoms associated with depression] can be effectively treated by mental health providers.

The general consensus from the members was that the discussions were productive, informative and helpful in coping with Transverse Myelitis. All the members and I wish to thank Ms. Klopchin for the thoughtful and professional manner in which she conducted the support group meeting. We wish her well in her career plans and hope she will come back to lead a future luncheon and support group meeting.

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