Son's career choice influenced by father's MS diagnosis

Sep 14 2013 - 8:58pm

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Richard and Christopher Hammond. Courtesy photo.
Richard and Christopher Hammond. Courtesy photo.

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OGDEN -- Dr. Chris Hammond's life took a new direction when his father, Richard, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Hammond was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he got an urgent call from home. It was his mother telling him of his father's diagnosis.

"I had no idea what MS was, but from there on I developed an interest and decided to go into the medical side of things when I got home," Hammond said.

Hammond went to medical school and became a neurologist so he could help his dad and many other MS sufferers. He specializes in MS and sleep disorders.

"This was the profession for me," he said. "I had a lot of background and a real passion for it and because my father had MS I could relate to my patients with MS."

Richard Hammond, 67, and a retired restaurant owner, said he is proud of his son's accomplishments.

Richard began having symptoms in 1990 when his feet had the sensation of going to sleep and he was unable to move his legs.

"I was diagnosed in 1992," he said. "I had an MRI done and the doctor called me on the phone and told me that he believed I had MS. He wished me good luck and told me there was nothing he could do for me."

Things have changed since then. Today, there are 10 disease-modifying treatments that include oral drugs, intravenous medications and injections. Richard is on an oral medication that has helped keep the disease from progressing too much.

"We've made a lot of progress in understanding the disease and the immune system in regard to MS," said Dr. Bruce Bebo in a telephone interview from New York City. Bebo is associate vice president of Discovery Research at the National MS Society. "The lives of people living with MS have been greatly improved through these treatments."

MS is a chronic disease that attacks the body's central nervous system, Chris Hammond said. Approximately 400,000 Americans suffer from the disease.

Symptoms vary and can be as individual as the person who has the illness, but there are some commonalities.

"Most people with MS have fatigue, heat intolerance and cognitive concerns," Hammond said. "Some people have numbness and tingling, balance problems, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination) and vision, sleep and bladder problems."

A lot of research is being done on the disease. Last week, researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School said they now suspect much of the investigation into MS has focused on the wrong part of the brain and say until now, research has been done on the brain's white matter. But the new study found gray matter is far more affected by the disease.

Hammond said he is confident there will one day either be a complete cure for MS or a highly effective way to manage it even better.

"We've had some early success with T-cell vaccination and there's a lot of work being done in stem cell research, he said.

On Saturday, several hundred people gathered in Ogden at the Botanical Gardens for the annual MS Walk. All funds raised will go toward MS research and helping those suffering with the disease.

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