The History of Multiple Sclerosis Cases of People with MS


Who were the people associated with the history of multiple sclerosis? The case histories? There are several people throughout history who were thought to have MS.

How do we know?

Through written accounts that describe their symptoms and life experiences. The journaled accounts of their lives sound so much like signs and symptoms observed today – so what else could they be?

One of the first was a woman named Halldora, who lived in Iceland around 1200. Her account tells how one day she suddenly lost her vision and mobility. She prayed to the saints and recovered them seven days later.

Saint Lidwina of Schiedam (1380-1483)

Another woman, Saint Lidwina of Schiedam, is said to be the first person to have had MS and an integral part in the history of multiple sclerosis. She was a Dutch nun who suffered from the age of 16 until she died at the age of 53 with typical signs and symptoms of MS.

Lidwina had symptoms like intermittent pain, weakness of the legs, as well as vision loss. She also suffered from headaches, and difficulty walking which eventually led to paralysis. Over the course of her life, her health slowly got worse. She did, however, show clear signs where she would go into remission. Based on this, she had a relapsing-remitting type of MS.

There have been several accounts written of her life throughout the years. She was canonised on March 18 of 1890 by Leo XIII as the patron saint of ice skaters and also the chronically ill. She is also known as the patron saint of of the town of Schiedam.

Augustus Frederick d'Este (1794-1884)

Another case that shows the history of multiple sclerosis unfolding was the grandson of George the III of the United Kingdom.

Augustus Frederick d'Este (1794-1848), was the son of Prince Augustus Frederick – Duke of Sussex and Lady Augusta Murray. Augustus left behind a detailed diary describing his 22 years living with the multiple sclerosis.

His first entry was in 1822 when he was 28 and the last one was in 1846. His diary wasn't found until almost 100 years later in 1948. Even though he wasn't diagnosed during his lifetime, his symptoms clearly point to MS.

What were his signs and symptoms? First of all, they began with the sudden onset of visual loss after the funeral of a friend – his first diary entry. He continued recording the following symptoms for the 22 years he had the disease:

  • vision problems
  • weakness of the legs
  • clumsiness of the hands
  • numbness
  • dizziness
  • bladder problems
  • erectile dysfunction
  • tremors
  • nocturnal spasms

By the time he was 50, he needed a wheelchair. And in the very last years of his life, he was confined to his bed. In spite of MS, he was an optimistic person with a positive view of life.

Bruce Cummings (1889-1919)

Another case history of multiple sclerosis was written by a British diarist, W.N.P. Barbellion. This was the nom-de-plume (pseudonym) of Bruce Frederick Cummings (7 Sept. 1889 – 22 Oct. 1919).

He kept a detailed log of his struggles with MS for most of his life. It was published in March of 1919, only months before his death. The title of the diaries was “The Journal of a Disappointed Man”.

Cummings chose the name W.N.P. Barbellion, to protect the identities of his family and friends. The names “Wilhelm”, “Nero”, and “Pilate”, were chosen because they were “examples of the most wretched men ever to have lived”. The true identity of “Barbellion” wasn't known until some time after Cummings death.

A reviewer of his book, Ronald Blythe called it "among the most moving diaries ever created".

Cummings did not even know he had the disease we now know as MS until after he was rejected from joining the army. His doctor had given him a sealed letter to give to the medical officer at the recruitment center. After the physical exam, Cummings was rejected as unfit for active duty. He was so disappointed and hurt that he decided to open the sealed letter anyway.

He then found out that his doctor had diagnosed him with the disease. He also said that Cummings most likely had less than five years to live. Cummings had just recently married and had a daughter, Penelope, in October of 1916. He had kept his discovery a secret from his wife and family to spare their feelings.

He was very moved to find out that his wife, Eleanor, had known about his MS even before he married her. His family had also been informed and knew of his condition before he did.

His diaries offer an honest look at MS that you can still relate to. It is still published today so that as someone with MS or someone who has a loved one with the disease, you can gain a greater understanding of it by reading about the history of multiple sclerosis through the eyes of someone who has also lived through it.

One of the most memorable passages written is one by Cummings on the subject of death.

"To me the honour is sufficient of belonging to the universe — such a great universe, and so grand a scheme of things. Not even Death can rob me of that honour. For nothing can alter the fact that I have lived;I have been I, if for ever so short a time. And when I am dead, the matter which composes my body is indestructible—and eternal, so that come what may to my 'Soul,' my dust will always be going on, each separate atom of me playing its separate part — I shall still have some sort of a finger in the pie. When I am dead, you can boil me, burn me, drown me, scatter me — but you cannot destroy me: my little atoms would merely deride such heavy vengeance. Death can do no more than kill you."

And in summing up his life he wrote the following:

"I am only twenty-eight, but I have telescoped into those few years a tolerably long life: I have loved and married, and have a family; I have wept and enjoyed, struggled and overcome, and when the hour comes I shall be content to die."

McDonald Criteria

With the year 2001 in the history of multiple sclerosis, comes the McDonald criteria. This has nothing to do with eating hamburgers to cure your MS, however. Ian McDonald – there seem to be a lot of “Ian's” in the history of MS, hmmm... – put together this set of criteria.

It helps to speed up the diagnosis even more, so that treatment can begin sooner. In the long run, doctors feel that if treatment starts sooner the progression of the disease will be much slower.

Here's the McDonald Criteria in a nutshell – well actually in a table.

As you can see, the criteria is more a tool for doctors than the general population – but you can kind of get the idea. Doctors can go through the list and check off what their patient has. If it fits, then they can clearly be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

In 2010 the history of multiple sclerosis brings us oral medications. They join the list of other treatments for multiple sclerosis. These include laquinimod, gilenya, and natalizumab. One, stops the lymphocytes which trigger MS from ever reaching the CNS (central nervous system).

The history of multiple sclerosis has not yet been finished. As more research is done, and more tools and technology are being developed; the cure for MS is very near. Even alternative treatments show much promise. So keep the hope alive. Stay healthy so that you will be here to benefit from the benefits of an MS Free world.