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Community rallies for Havre nurse with multiple sclerosis


Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson

Angela Morris, 33, grabs a photograph of her sons — 5-year-old Michael Morris and 3-year-old Malachi Morris — in her home Thursday afternoon. From 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the St. Jude Parish Center, there will be a spaghetti benefit for Morris' medical expenses as she battles multiple sclerosis. Morris was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago.

In 2009, Angela Morris began having strange symtoms in her body, tingling, numbness and paralysis. Her legs began to fail her.

She went to doctors for several months, but they couldn't determine what the problem was.

Finally, she went to Seattle in April 2010. There, doctors determined that she had multiple sclerosis.

Since then, she has been undergoing treatment that thus far has not had the desired effect. She walks with a cane or walker. Sometimes she can't walk.

Her mother helps take care of her 5- and 3-year-old boys sometimes, and sometimes she has a babysitter to help. She needs help doing household chores. She can no longer work as a nurse, a job she loved.

Despite her problems, Angela remains upbeat.

"She is always smiling. You never hear her ask 'Why me?'" said her friend Kathy Woeppel.

"I think it is her trust in God," Woeppel said.

Woeppel and Angela's many friends are working together with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to put on a benefit for Angela from 4 to 7 p. m. Saturday at St. Jude's Parish Center.

Coca-Cola Refreshments, McDonald's and Gary & Leo's Fresh Foods have donated food and soft drinks.

"Most of the food has been donated," Woeppel said.

Members of the Havre Assembly of God Church have been generous in their donations of food, plates and decorations, she said.

Musical groups will give their time to perform for people, she said.

At 5 p. m., there will be a silent auction and a baked goods live auction, she said.

Woeppel said the proceeds go to Angela and her family who need help paying all the incidental expenses that come up in fighting the disease. Angela has had to go to Seattle several times this year for steroid injections. She has to hire people to watch the children.

Woeppel said she has worked with the family to get Supplemental Security Income for Angela, but with no success.

"There were mounds and mounds of paperwork," she said.

But her application was rejected by federal officials in Helena, and Woeppel said they have been unsuccessful in getting an explanation.

She said Angela's family will serve spaghetti to guests Saturday night, while other volunteers will prepare the food.

Woeppel said lots of people have come forward to help because of the respect the Morris family has earned.

"They are a neat, wonderful family," she said of Angela and her husband, Andy, a computer technician at Montana State University-Northern.

Woeppel said she has been pleased, but not surprised, with the community response. Her grandson was born prematurely and the Havre community rallied to support him.

Now she's glad to help out someone she has known for years.

"I saw Angela grow up. I was at her wedding, at their baby shower," she said.

"I know this great community will help her out," she said.

MS an unusually common Hi-Line illness

North-central Montana seems to have an unusually high percentage of people with multiple sclerosis, according to Angela Morris.

She said about 400,000 people nationwide have been diagnosed with MS, but there seems to be a higher percentage of people in Montana with the disease.

The cold winters and lack of sunshine may contribute to the problem, she said.

There is not enough evidence to say that lack of Vitamin D, which comes from sunshine, causes MS.

"But it does seem to be a common denominator," she said. "People with MS seem to have a shortage of Vitamin D."

Montana has sufficient sunshine only in the summer months, she said. The only way to make up for the lack of sunshine is through vitamin supplements.


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