Jake Nyden has always loved science fiction and realized years ago that he wanted to design airplanes and spacecraft. Now, with the help of a National MS Society Scholarship, the 2012 high school graduate plans to attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, after taking a year off to join the Air Force.
As sure as Jake is about where he’s going, he’s just as rock-solid on what brought him to this point. His mom lives with multiple sclerosis, and he’s been her chief caregiver since he was 13.
“She has secondary-progressive MS with optic neuritis in her right eye, pain in her left leg and occasional numbness in her hands. She sometimes has trouble with her balance and she hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in five years,” Jake says, sounding as much like a clinician with a deep understanding of the disease as he does a devoted 18-year-old son.
In helping his mom with her daily living needs for several years, Jake picked up several life lessons a lot earlier than his peers. He’s had to take on the responsibilities of a money-managing, bill-paying adult, a caregiver and a full-time student all at once. Money’s always been tight and the scholarship will be a huge help.
Jake and his mom are hopeful that an impending stem-cell treatment will improve her condition enough that she can safely get around the home and care for herself while he’s gone.
As he looks back on and thinks about how MS has changed both his mother and himself, Jake says, “I’ve fought for her for so long. Even though I’ll be leaving for the Air Force and college, I’m still fighting for her to get a treatment that works.”
Find out more about Society Scholarships, including how to apply — or how to support the Scholarship program.