Neuroscience

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Couch

Seattle residents Sven and Bernadette Couch, a married couple in their 40s, have many things in common. Both are the third of five kids in their families, and they like to share a laugh over the Comedy Central channel. Both have a passion for the arts and regularly attend St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. They also both suffer from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). And the Swedish MS Center is there for them every step of the way. Sven and Bernadette (who goes by “Bernie”) each noticed the first symptom of MS — a chronic disease that affects an estimated 400,000 Americans — several years before they met, while engaging in a favorite activity: running.

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Swedish Multiple Sclerosis Center

Maria Cote received an unwelcome surprise around the time of her 40th birthday in 2001: After visiting her primary-care physician with what she thought might be two sprained ankles, which were giving her trouble walking, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease of the central nervous system that can cause disabling symptoms, including impaired vision, fatigue, muscle spasms and mental impairment.

“When my primary-care doctor referred me to a neurologist, I was surprised,” remembers Cote. “I asked, ‘Isn’t a neurologist for the head?’ ”

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Treating the Patient, Not Just the Disease

In researching treatment options, Lori Top met with medical personnel at other facilities that seemed detached and uninterested in the traumatic impact John’s condition was having on their lives. She says she was pleasantly surprised about John’s first visit with Dr. Foltz. “He asked John about his life. He made it clear, she says, that he wanted to treat John the person and not just the tumor.” John told him about his work as an architect, about his and Lori’s daughter, Isabelle, who was 6, and about his daughter, Katie, who was 12 and lived with the couple part of the year. He told Dr. Foltz he wasn’t ready to leave them behind.

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