Georgia Woman Goes from MS Diagnosis to Big Business
This MS Awareness Month, we celebrate the strength and resilience of those living with multiple sclerosis.
That’s what Dana Berry, 46, of Cleveland, Georgia, says she felt after being diagnosed in 2006 with multiple sclerosis. Growing up, Dana had an uncle who ultimately died from complications from MS.
Now here she was, in her 30s, the mother of two young children and working at her husband’s plumbing and millwork business – worried that she faced the same fate. Her symptoms, not physically apparent to outsiders, included “brain fog” and fatigue so severe her kids “couldn’t figure out why mom won’t get up.”
“I was mad,” she says. “I didn’t have time for this.”
After seeing a local neurologist for about a year, Dana came to the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center. Her spirits were instantly lifted “by the energy and hope” of the Shepherd staff.
According to the National MS Society, there are nearly one million people in the United States with MS, which is two times greater than previous estimates. MS affects everyone differently, and patients often undergo various treatments until their healthcare team finds the most effective treatment combination. Dana had several stops and starts until, around 2009, an infusion treatment worked – with no relapses.
Five years later, in 2014, she opened Kitchen of Dana, a gourmet macaroni and cheese business.
Started in Dana’s basement kitchen in Cleveland, a small rural town 80 miles north of Atlanta, the business now has its own facility and six part-time employees. Her macaroni and cheese is sold in more than 30 stores throughout Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, and is shipped nationwide.
“I needed that personal achievement,” Dana says. “Just to prove to myself that even though I’m labelled (as having MS), I can still live the fullest life.”
She says her biggest supporters include the Shepherd staff; a nurse even helped her test the product. The staff threw her a party for her 100th treatment, and Dana says she actually looks forward to her monthly clinic visits, despite an almost three-hour drive roundtrip.
“Instead of lumping everyone together in a statistical group, they individualize care,” Dana says. “They take the textbook out of medicine and make it real for people. They know the hurdles of MS because they see it every day. It’s definitely a special place.”
Written by Drew Jubera
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.