In the past nine years living with multiple sclerosis, I have had to overcome many challenges. I have lost the use of my legs, sight in my eye and cognitive abilities. To see me today, you would never guess that I am living with MS. Because of that many people ask me what I do to treat my disease. For me the most important treatment is not in the form of a pill, but rather working with therapists to learn compensatory strategies to maximize the functionality. Many people do not know that therapy can help with activities of daily living such as going to the bathroom or dressing. These are the keys to independence when trying to recover from the devastating impairments caused by a chronic illness like MS.
When I lost use of my legs and bladder functionality I worked with a physical therapist not only on learning how to walk again, but also on bladder training. When I lost my sight due to optic neuritis, I had to work with an occupational therapist to judge depth and distance. When I was having troubles with memory and word recollection, I worked with a Speech Language Pathologist. While I have achieved great outcomes through therapy, the most challenging thing for me to overcome was my anterior cervical fusion.
After my anterior cervical fusion surgery, I worked with a team composed of a physical therapist, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist in order to recover. My occupational therapist taught me how to dress and use the bathroom while wearing a hard cervical collar. My speech language pathologist taught me how to swallow despite the difficulties having that collar restrict my neck. My physical therapist strengthened my neck and helped me build up my range of motion so that I could turn my neck again and look over my shoulder. Without these dedicated rehab professionals, I don’t believe that I would have had the positives outcomes that I have experienced.
The biggest challenge in a journey such as mine, however, is often how to find and the right health professionals who understand how to treat your unique issues. The first thought is to ask your doctor, but your doctor doesn’t always know about theses specialty programs offered by therapy services. The next natural place to seek this information is on the internet, but how do you know the information is reliable? While there are many excellent therapy programs out there, not many market on the internet, so there is a tremendous need for a reliable network of these providers. The question becomes How do I find these services?
In my search to find this information, I stumbled upon the Medical Fitness Network. The Medical Fitness Network is a fitness and healthcare referral service that provides a free network of fitness and healthcare professionals with a background in the treatment and rehabilitation for people living with chronic illnesses. I was so compelled by the mission of the Medical Fitness Network that I reached out to Lisa Dougherty, the founder and owner of the service.
Matt: Lisa, thank you for joining us today and thank you for all the great work that you do for people like myself living with a chronic illness.
Lisa: Matt, thank you for having me. We started this service specifically to help people like you and my father, who is a cancer survivor. He is the one who inspired me to create this free network.
Matt: Tell me a little bit about the website.
Lisa: We seek to build a relationship where all succeed by contributing to the greater good. The Medical Fitness Network provides a free national fitness and healthcare referral service to those with (chronic) medical conditions, pre & postnatal care (& everyone else!): Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, Cancer, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Heart Disease, Mental Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Respiratory Disease and Stroke.
Our members include fitness and healthcare professionals from diverse fields such as acupuncturists, chiropractors, dietitians, fitness, health & wellness coaches, massage therapists, physical therapists, and psychologists, creating a truly unprecedented multidisciplinary network. We encourage referrals among the network, as well as, job postings.
Our network was built by over 30 volunteers who care about uniting all these industries to work together in order to serve the community. We have 50 business partners now supporting it by providing over $2000 benefits to our members.
We signed a collaboration agreement with the National Arthritis Foundation to be their community resource network. We are also in talks with the Alzheimer’s Association & the National MS Society to be their resource network and are opening talks with all patient organizations in the U.S. The Clinton Foundation is interested in the MFN and supporting this network under their Health Matters Initiative.
Matt: Why did you decide to create the Medical Fitness Network?
Lisa: I thought it was time for the fitness industry to be part of the healthcare team. Regular physical activity is one globally accepted strategy to promote and preserve health. Developing a plan for regular exercise can be difficult and people with chronic medical conditions have an even greater challenge. A qualified fitness professional can be an essential partner in developing a wellness program. Individuals with chronic medical conditions need to find fitness professionals that have specialty training and who understand their needs and limitations. I also know that diet along with other complimentary healthcare can remarkably change a person’s quality and outlook on life. Hence uniting all these industries under one roof made sense.
We identified the top 14 chronic/medical conditions in the U.S. They all have patient organizations that have an ongoing challenge of creating and maintaining a national resource network of qualified complimentary healthcare and fitness professionals that are educated with that condition. They typically do not have the funds or man power to oversee reaching out to solicit professionals and screening them, or to build and maintain a database. We are offering them this network for FREE.
I also wanted a resource for patients, as well as, providers. I discovered that the average person does not know how to screen and seek out qualified complimentary health & fitness professionals. They have a hard time discerning overwhelming info on the internet and don’t know what credentials to look for so a lot of them end up doing nothing- hence our sick, chronically in pain, depressed, obese nation.
Matt: Wow, Lisa, your website is such a great community service. I love that you connect people in need with the healthcare & fitness professionals who specialize in treating their specific problems. You mentioned that you are building a nationwide network of qualified professionals. How can a provider become a part of your network?
Lisa: Matt, I’m glad you asked. We are conducting a membership drive. Our goal is to have members in all fifty states. When we achieve that goal, many large healthcare and patient organizations are going to market our network. The result will be a major referral service for our members and an invaluable resource for patients. We are very close to our goal and are calling out to those who would like to participate in our membership drive.
Matt: How can people contact you about becoming a member?
Lisa: They can fill out our contact for: http://medicalfitnessnetwork.org/contact/
Thank you for joining me on the blog, Lisa. Please visit Medical Fitness Network or click on the banner to learn more or to join.