by Nan Devlin
When Kevin was a cadet at West Point, he overheard Brigadier General Robert Foley tell a story to a group of visitors about the mental, physical and emotional tenacity of brave soldiers. The general said that even in relentless onslaughts of overwhelming enemy forces, military leaders never stop; they never quit.
Kevin was no ordinary soldier. The mental conditioning, physical strength and readiness training gained at West Point made him an Apache attack helicopter pilot and earned him a command of 140 troops in South Korea. He was at the top of his game—young, fit and healthy. Then came a day in 1999.
“I was preparing for a training flight and felt an unusual numbness in my right hand,” said Kevin. He shook it off, not thinking much of it at the time. But the numbness returned again and again, eventually working its way up his arm and into his neck. He knew something wasn’t right.
He was flown to Hawaii for an extensive series of tests and scans. The devastating diagnosis of relapsing remitting MS not only changed his life, but also ended his career as a pilot. But Kevin’s military training helped him know what to do: never stop, never quit.
The Big Reset
He reached out to the MS Society and learned more about research, expectations and coping. And he did what he could while he could, climbing Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. As the disease progressed, he found new physical activities, which also helped him tackle the emotional ups and downs of frequent MS episodes.
“My life, job, everything changed,” said Kevin. “I had to make a big reset, and it took me a few years to get to a point where I could think about contributing to the fight against MS.”
In 2003, he took part in his first Bike MS, and did century rides when feeling up to it. With the most recent ride in 2014, Kevin, his wife Brie Stoianoff, and Team Amulet have now raised a total of $350,000 for research on progressive MS.
Kevin and Brie moved to Oregon from Delaware in 2007 after both getting jobs in Portland, and in 2010, had a daughter, Eleanor. While his family and work are sources of strength, Kevin has had struggles with medication management. He is also now diagnosed with secondary progressive MS, which is affecting his speech and mobility. But he is soldiering on, taking part in a clinical trial on medications specific to progressive MS issues.
“There are so many different outcomes for MS, and a lot of positive assistance from the MS Society,” said Kevin. “With funding, there will be more options. You have to believe in yourself, trust others and help others.”
Now, Kevin needs your help.
Making a gift to our Chapter will drive critical research on progressive MS—the most aggressive form of the disease that Kevin, and millions more, live with each day. The International Progressive MS Alliance, a worldwide collaborative focusing on progressive MS (which has, thus far, eluded the scientific community), recently awarded its first round of 22 research grants to investigators in 9 countries. Their goal: remove the barriers to develop treatments exclusively for progressive MS. This research will help us better understand nerve degeneration, potential medications, long-term imaging, genetics, outcomes associated with progressive MS, and support for shorter, faster clinical trials–like the one Kevin is taking part in now.
MS can strike anyone at anytime–even an Army helicopter pilot in top physical condition. Please join Kevin in his pledge to “Never Stop, Never Quit” and help us find treatments and a cure for MS.
Join the good fight. Make a gift to the National MS Society, Oregon Chapter.