At times, it was like my body was on fire," Cindy Galati says. The odd health symptoms-numbness, tingling and burning sensations in several parts of her body began not long after Cindy graduated from college in 1979. With a degree in elementary education, Cindy was doing what she loved most-teaching-when the unrelenting symptoms finally drove her to seek help.
At first, doctors couldn't pinpoint what was causing Cindy's discomfort. Fortunately, Cindy found John Trotter, MD, a world-renowned Washington University School of Medicine neuroimmunologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. In 1982, Dr. Trotter diagnosed Cindy, then only 25, with multiple sclerosis (MS). (Dr. Trotter passed away in 2001.) It was then Cindy realized that her body had been dealing with a neurological storm that had been forming for many years.
Living Life to the Fullest
Affecting as many as one in 500 Americans, MS is an unpredictable and incurable disease, often striking people
in their prime-between ages 20 and 50. MS interrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body, making it difficult to control muscular activity. Symptoms wax and wane in many people as the disease progresses.
Cindy has always tried to remain positive and refused to let MS get the best of her. She continued teaching elementary school until her father was diagnosed with lung cancer. Only then did she give up the profession she loved so she could take care of him during his final months.
Following her father's death, Cindy volunteered regularly as a teacher at a YMCA after-school program. Now 57, she uses a walker and only drives short distances but still participates in a number of activities and volunteers in the community."
Future Support for a Cure
In 2005, Cindy decided to name The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital as the beneficiary of her IRA. "I chose the Foundation because I want whatever money I have left to do some good. I want to support efforts to help people living with MS and the ongoing studies that may eventually find a cure," Cindy says.
Throughout the years, Cindy says she feels fortunate to have seen and experienced improvements in therapies for patients with MS. Cindy visits the John L. Trotter MS Center at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital every month for monitoring and treatment. At the Center, she's also part of a study by neurologist Anne Cross, MD, to develop a new imaging technique that will result in better, noninvasive ways to measure the effects of MS on the nervous system.
A Simple Gift With a Big Impact
"Designating the Foundation was an easy way for me to provide for the future support of Barnes-Jewish Hospital," Cindy says. "The process was simple. No lawyer is needed to name a charity as the beneficiary of an IRA, 401(k) or 403(b) account."
Cindy hopes that by naming the Foundation as beneficiary, the day will come when having MS will no longer be associated with crutches and wheelchairs. "This is bigger than me," Cindy says. "The new treatments being developed by Dr. Cross and her team may mean we're getting closer to stopping MS in its tracks."