A sports fan and NY Knicks supporter, 63 year-old Linzal Cooper of Jamaica is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that has kept him in a wheelchair unable to walk on his own. He can no longer use his lower body to get around.
And his wife, Angela, is struggling to find time to care of her husband and pay for the healthcare he deserves — but is not receiving.
“I used to walk with a cane because I fell down once,” said Cooper. “I then tried a walker but that didn't last too long since I almost collapsed, and decided to use the chair since I have it.”
Cooper further added that he knew his legs were “becoming bad,” but didn’t think he would be in a wheelchair today.
Both a husband and father, Cooper was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure at the age of 39. He’s seen his neurologist every five months and primary physician doctor every three months, and does an MRI once a year. An injection of Avanex, which is medication prepared and sent to his home once a month, helps keep his upper body moving since he cannot use his legs.
With a disease that attacks the central nervous system, Cooper was unaware of his symptoms, which his doctors could not assess, until he saw a neurologist, who gave the diagnosis.
Bibi Mohamed, 42, home health aide with Partners in Care, has been by Cooper’s side since 2010. She visits him once a week every Friday, while another worker comes during the week from Catholic Charities. Mohamed is no relation to the author.
“Somewhere, somehow, he should have some help,” said Mohamed. “Mrs. Cooper doesn’t know how much longer Catholic Charities will continue to pay for the other health aide that comes in.”
According to Mohamed, Cooper’s wife tries her hardest to look for help since she cannot afford to pay for private care. She has to work around her husband, since there is no one to stay with him sometimes while she’s away. And becoming the caregiver often can be difficult.
“He did not progress from the time that I came until now,” Mohamed said. “When I started to work with him, he could have held on and walked in the house with his walker. It was too clustered for him upstairs, so his wife decided to make accommodations for him in the basement. It’s like a man cave with his big screen TV. ”
Angela Cooper has been a guest service expeditor with the Marriott Hotel chain for 15 years.
“To the caregiver and patient, MS will change the way you talk, think and approach life,” she said. “But with a good support group, like I’ve had with my family, friends, Partners in Care, National MS Society, MS Foundation and Catholic Charities, with all these groups surrounding you, you can and will survive.”
An affiliate of the not-for-profit Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Partners in Care provides home health aides and skilled nurses who specialize in a variety of chronic illnesses and medical conditions, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis and many others.
They currently provide services to nearly 100,000 New Yorkers, the largest collection of clients in their 30-year history.
According to the National MS Society, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis but effective strategies are available to modify the disease course, treat exacerbations, and manage its symptoms. The cause remains unknown.
It affects more than 2.1 million people worldwide.
Mohamed says she reminds Linzal Cooper to be thankful that he is doing so much for himself, becoming independent, and to always think positive.
“His spirit in this whole situation has just been amazing to me, because I always tell him that his condition is not that bad,” she said.