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Web nets local woman world of support

By Staff
Ohio man takes up cause
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
When Christine Oesterreich was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a year and a half ago, her husband, Bryan, was determined to lift her spirits. She had to quit her job, went blind twice and had multiple seizures, but her husband did find a way to lift her spirits — through the Internet.
He posted a thread on a Ford Mustang enthusiasts’ Web site, asking his online driving buddies “just to send a card to cheer her up; … maybe lift her spirits,” he said in an interview at his Washington home Thursday.
Since then, the couple has received enough correspondence to overflow a scrapbook, not to mention gifts. They have received cards from as far as Washington state, shrimp overnighted from Louisiana and maple syrup sent from Canada, as well as children’s artwork, family photos and other gifts.
One “good person” sticks out in both their minds — Jeff Jenkins of Oklahoma. Reading of Christine Oesterreich’s diagnosis on the Web site, Jenkins was reminded of his mother, who suffered from MS from 1962 until she died in 1986. Now Jenkins is set to ride in a 150-mile bicycle tour benefiting MS research on Sept. 22-23.
Jenkins set up his own Web site, through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, to accept pledges for his ride with the goal of raising $2,000.
The Oesterreichs also are committed to helping others who are suffering from the disease, both those who are diagnosed and those who are not, and they are hoping to set up an MS support group in Beaufort County to do just that.
With the help of the national society, she has gathered information on how to form a group, and has already made arrangements for it to meet in a room at Brown Library, she said.
Neither of the Oesterreichs has many family members in the area, they said. But the overwhelming support they have gotten from friends across the country “makes up for all of the casseroles you get from family,” Christine Oesterreich said. “It has felt like having a big extended family, except that it’s so many people I have never even met going to the store and buying me gifts. It has made such a difference.”
When it comes to day-to-day coping, the couple comes full circle back to the black Ford Mustang in the driveway. Both enjoy hitting the road and going fast.
For more information on support for those suffering with MS, e-mail Christine Oesterreich at coesterreich@gmail.com.