Swedish to open new multiple sclerosis center

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Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center opens a new Multiple Sclerosis Center on its Cherry Hill campus today.

The new facility will bring all of Swedish Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute’s services for patients with multiple sclerosis under one roof.

When fully operational, the facility is expected to serve more than 6,000 patients, making it the largest multiple sclerosis specialty center in the nation.

In most cases, multiple sclerosis is a progressive, disabling neurological disease.But, although there is no cure, patients can live many years and often are able to remain active despite their symptoms.

The goal of the new center will be “to help people live well despite this disease,” said Dr. Jim Bowen, the center’s new medical director.

For reasons that are unclear, the Pacific Northwest appears to have a higher prevalence of MS than other parts of the country, with more than 12,000 patients in Washington state, Montana and Alaska, according to National MS Society’s Northwest Chapters estimates.

Approximately 9,500 of those cases are in Washington state.

The new center’s staff will include two neurologists specializing in multiple sclerosis as well a team of therapists, counsellors and educators who specialize in MS care and services.

A third MS specialist physician will join the team in August, Dr. Bowen said.

The new facility was designed with MS patients in mind: exam tables are low to the floor; doors are wide enough to allow power wheelchairs to pass through easily; and floors are carpet-free and free of grout lines that might trip up some MS patients.

In addition to medical consultation rooms, the new facility features meeting rooms for support groups, a gym for physical therapy, an outdoor deck of rehabilitation, and a “wellness studio” where patients can participate in yoga and other exercise programs.

Services to be provided at the new MS Center include:

• Physical, occupational, speech and mental therapies

• Cognitive rehabilitation and nutritional consultation services

• Ophthalmologic and urologic services

• Individual and family support groups

• Rehabilitation therapy services

• Patient educational resources

• Comprehensive wellness services with a variety of exercise programs

• Gym with equipment to specifically meet the needs of MS patients

• A street-level outdoor deck designed for wellness training

• Yoga classes for patients

The center will also have a clinical research coordinator on site to help patients who want to participate in studies of new treatments and diagnostic technologies.

Swedish projects that the new facility will cost $7.8 million. To date, the Swedish Foundation has received more than $2.1 million toward the cost of the center.

Nine families in the Seattle area contributed, hospital officials said, including Richard and Betty Hedreen and Jim and Gaye Pigott, who have collectively donated $1 million to the new center.

Another set of donors made pledges of $100,000 or more, hospital officials said.

To garner further funding, the new MS Center will be the focus of Celebrate Swedish, the medical center’s annual fund-raising auction, which will be held May 12 this year.

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