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Format: 04/19/2014
Format: 04/19/2014


Local Minister, Myasthenia Gravis Patient, Plans Presque Isle Marathon Run to Raise Money for MG Care, Awareness

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Patient’s Attempt ‘Remarkable’ AGH neurologist says

When pastor and marathon runner Mel McRoberts was diagnosed with the chronic autoimmune disorder Myasthenia Gravis (MG), he feared his running days were over. His early symptoms included severe muscle weakness, a dragging foot, swollen feet, a drooping eyelid and fingers, and double vision.

Yet on Sept. 12, McRoberts of Rochester, Pa., will run Erie’s Presque Isle Marathon, hoping to raise awareness of Myasthenia Gravis – which literally translates as “grave muscle weakness” – as well as to raise money for the Myasthenia Gravis Association of Western Pennsylvania at Allegheny General Hospital.

“I’m especially concerned about people with MG who may never run a marathon,” McRoberts said. “I run now because I can. I want people whose symptoms are more severe to know that my thoughts are with them every step of the way. Be encouraged; you’re not in this alone. I run for you!”

McRoberts’ motto for the race is “While I have MG, MG doesn’t have me!”

McRoberts first experienced symptoms of MG in December 2006. During a drive to Maryland, his wife noticed his left eyelid was drooping. They stopped at a chain vision center, where a doctor immediately suspected MG. At home, McRoberts visited an ophthalmologist and then a neurologist, who referred him to the Myasthenia Gravis Association of Western Pennsylvania at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH).
In the early days, McRoberts felt exhausted and often dropped things. (“To this day, I don’t hold babies unless I’m sitting down,” he said.) He said he is grateful for the referral to The Myasthenia Gravis Association, where he now serves on the board of directors.

“The Myasthenia Gravis Association provides me with the support and encouragement I need to live as normal a life as possible,” McRoberts said. “They have responded quickly whenever I’ve experienced a symptom flare-up.”

Neurologist George Small, MD, Medical Director of the Myasthenia Gravis Association at AGH, said the early diagnosis and treatment McRoberts received at the MGA was pivotal.

“Some patients endure many months or even years without a proper diagnosis,” Dr. Small said. “Mel’s MG symptoms are mostly isolated to his eyes, a condition known as ocular myasthenia gravis. However, many patients are greatly restricted in their activities by weakness throughout their bodies. This is why Mel’s goal of running a marathon is a remarkable achievement.”

Because McRoberts doesn’t know if his MG might worsen, he finds it important to rise to this challenge in his life while he still can. He ran the flat, cool Presque Isle Marathon in 2004 and finished with a time of four hours and 31 minutes. In training for the 2010 marathon, he’s already run 15 miles in two and a half hours.

To make a donation to the Myasthenia Gravis Association in honor of McRoberts’ run, visit www.mgawpa.org and click on the banner ad.

The Myasthenia Gravis Association was created in 1955 and has a long history of serving those with MG. It is located on the campus of Allegheny General Hospital and provides a variety of services for those affected by MG.

MG is an autoimmune disorder that can affect a variety of muscles. Symptoms can include difficulty eating, walking, lifting arms, grooming, talking, laughing, smiling, and at worst, breathing. Thankfully, due to relentless efforts to support patients, effective community outreach and the search for new and effective forms of treatment, many patients live active, fulfilling lives.

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