Getting the job done
Volunteer with multiple sclerosis finds a way to help
By ERIKA M. TORRES
Tustin resident Frank Austin, a volunteer who has multiple sclerosis, was honored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Pacific South Coast Chapter as its 2007 Activist of the Year.
According to the MS Society, Austin's selection was based on his efforts to assist disabled persons by serving on various committees, as well as his role as leader of a self-help group for men with MS.
MS is a chronic and disabling disease of the central nervous system with no known cure.
Austin worked for office equipment companies for more than 20 years before his diagnosis with MS in 1997. He and wife, Corinne, have been married for 25 years. They have three grown children.
Q:Why do you think you were honored?
A:I was involved in a lot of stuff last year. I do think we did a tremendous job with our advocacy work with OCTA. A year ago, their paratransit service was in horrible shape.
What they've done now is put together a real time system; drivers are now online, they're doing everything in real time. They're keeping track and they know where all their buses are every day.
I think OCTA and their contractor did a tremendous job of getting it together, but I think a part of it was we were standing there and they had to look at us in the face.
Q:What has caused you to become so actively involved?
A: What else am I going to do? (laughs) I have MS. I am on Social Security disability. I haven't worked for five years. Obviously I wanted to do something I care about and I'm a bit of a workaholic and this seemed like an obvious thing to do. It's now my life.
Q:How has MS impacted your life and how do you deal with it?
A:Well it's taken me out of the workforce. I have some problems with the ability to stand. I get fatigued. My mobility is limited to about 200 feet to 200 yards depending on the day. I've been fortunate; my wife is tremendous.
This disease treats everyone different. I see a lot of people who just withdraw and go into their shell and they just kind of wither. Their self-esteem is gone and they just can't stand up to it anymore. I refuse to be that way. I'm going to do things as long as I can and when I can't do it the way I did it before I'll try and find another way to get the job done.
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