The Electrifying Story of Multiple Sclerosis

Image of The Electrifying Story Of Multiple Sclerosis
Release Date: 
January 6, 2015
Vanita Books
Reviewed by: 

This short book provides an upbeat but realistic portrayal of multiple sclerosis (MS), with enlightening illustrations and enough detail for those reading it to be educated without being overwhelmed.

It is the brainchild of Dr. Vanita Oelschlager, a former teacher, author of children’s books and Writer in Residence for The University of Akron’s Literacy Program. The Electrifying Story of Multiple Sclerosis is a feast for the brain, aimed at children and adults and relatives, friends and patients alike.

Dr Oelschlager’s husband Jim has had MS for the past 40 years. They describe the condition as an “elephant,” and in the book “My Grampy Can’t Walk,” they hope that, “Some day—and I don’t think it will be very long now—people will be able to say that MS no longer stands for a dreaded disease. They will say instead that MS stands for ‘Mystery Solved.’”

The many visual elements, provided by illustrator Mr Joe Rossi, certainly aid understanding, with some fantastic pictures of armed gremlins attacking nerve cells. In his opinion, “With the subject being serious and sometimes heavy handed, I used colourful and lighthearted illustrations to balance it out.”

As with most factual books, the challenge is to be able to explain the terminology simply and clearly while retaining sufficient content. This feat is achieved with almost all of the technical language in the book, for instance in defining the disease itself, “Multiple means many, and Sclerosis refers to the scars left on the protective coating after it has been damaged.” Readers wanting more information can also refer to the well-chosen glossary at the end of the book.

Technical language is also defined indirectly, for instance in describing the process of destruction occurring in the disease, “Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s central nervous system. MS damages the protective coating around the nerves and prevents the body from responding properly to instructions from the brain.”

Mr Rossi’s use of illustrations and pictures are great ways to make the information understandable, and are particularly useful with regards to statistics. For example, risk factors for the disease are presented pictorially on a global scale with just enough text to accompany the designs.

Dr. Oelschlager has crafted the book in an insightful way, aiming to convey personal experience blended with facts in the section, “What’s it like to have MS.” Spread over several pages, the detailed illustrations for each symptom stick in the mind and prevent an overload of bullet pointed lists.

Readers who would like to get even more involved with the condition are encouraged to develop empathy by trying out various symptoms. For example, putting weights around your ankles can simulate “heavy legs,” whilst altered hearing can be reproduced using ear plugs and hooking bungee cords to arms and legs gives a semblance of the motor symptoms. 

Dr. Oelschlager tries to bring a positive note to the discussion, without sugar coating this debilitating condition. She reminds the reader, “While there are many things a person with MS cannot do, there are lots of things a person with MS CAN do.”

Furthermore, the book aims to dispel myths by presenting some clear facts, “MS is not contagious. That means you can’t get it from someone else . . . MS is a chronic condition - that means once you get it, you will have it forever.”

This book plays its part in mobilising a global response to MS, assuring the reader there are plenty of ways to be active against the disease both on a societal and personal level. If you have a friend with MS, you will appreciate the suggestions of simple ways to help, such as doing the cooking or even sending a card.

As an added bonus, to give back to charity and the people who need it, 10% of the book’s sale is donated to the Oak Clinic for MS, based in northeast Ohio.