The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 5, 2014

'I'm at peace with it'

By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Almost 20 years ago, when Greg Fier was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he did not know how to handle it. While his condition had deteriorated since that 1995 diagnosis, he continues to have a positive attitude.

“I’ve accepted it. I’m at peace with it,” Greg said. “Don’t feel bad for me, I’m the lucky one.”

Greg’s diagnosis came after he noticed an odd tingling sensation. Whenever he would bend his neck downward while sitting, a jolt of electricity would go through his body. He thought he might be having back problems, until he started having numbness in the palms of his hands.

In 1994, Greg visited his doctor, complaining about weakness in his arms. Listening to the complaints, his doctor began talking about MS and other conditions.

“And you’re just hearing this thinking, ‘yeah, it’s not me,’” Greg said.

He soon learned that he did have MS.

For the first five years he was basically symptomatic. After that, his condition fell into a “relapsing and remitting” pattern, where the symptoms would come and go. Drug treatments did not work for him either.

“I would take three steps back and two steps forward,” Greg said.

Now at 52 years old, Greg spends most of his days in his home, in a wheelchair. He has minimal control in his arms and hands and uses his voice and head movements for most tasks.

He spends much of his energy ensuring that he and others like him, continue to have some autonomy and freedom through technology.

“You hate to ask someone for every little thing,” Greg said.

A few years ago, Greg and a friend Dave Layton funded a group, Bob’s Assistive Technology (BAT) Fund, to get a laptop for their friend Bob Finch. Since then they have worked to provide other forms of technology to help them deal with MS and other conditions.

“I think learning how to operate a computer and how to communicate with that helps people to stay in touch with friends and family,” Greg said. “So that’s kind of my mission now.”

Greg is lucky to have a home that is set up to deal with his multiple sclerosis. Several years ago, friends raised money and donated their time to remodel his home. He also is able to operate parts of his home, such as his television and lights, with voice commands.

“For someone who can’t do anything, those little things can make a better quality of life,” Greg said.

Greg enjoys using his computer. He spends a lot of time communicating to people outside of his home and composing his music. Several pieces of technology allow him to do this.

On Greg’s glasses, there is a piece of reflective tape which is picked up by a SmartNav camera mounted on the top of his computer monitor. By moving his head, he can use a cursor. He also uses Dragon, speech recognition software, to open browser windows, type documents and send emails.

The BAT Fund works to provide this and other types of programs to people with a need.

“Staying in contact with the outside world, that is so good for your heart and your psyche and therefore, for your physical health,” Greg said.

Greg attributes his good outlook and life to his family and friends, including his mother, sister and friend Brent Tinderholt. His sister and Tinderholt each come bring him dinner at least one night a week and help him wash and brush his teeth. He also has a live-in caregiver, Katie Simon, and a day-time care giver, Beth McGovern.

“It’s cliche, but you truly find what type of friends you have when you get this,” Greg said.

Greg is also spending his time with the new MS support group, formed by Tami Leavens last year.