MediaPlanet has launched a robust multimedia campaign aimed at calling attention to multiple sclerosis (MS) and similar diseases and featuring MS patient and former professional hockey player Bryan Bickell.
The kickoff was timed for March, which is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month.
MediaPlanet specializes in content creation and distribution through various platforms. In addition to raising awareness, the digital and print campaign focuses on resources and support for those with MS and other autoimmune disorders. MS is estimated to affect almost 1 million U.S. residents.
Bickell, 33, had won two Stanley Cup championships with the NHL‘s Chicago Blackhawks. He started experiencing dizziness and balance issues that physicians first attributed to vertigo or a tooth infection, but in 2016, while playing for the Carolina Hurricanes, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder got a life-changing diagnosis: relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), a form that affects about 85 percent of MS patients. A married father of two, he finished the 2016-2017 season, then retired.
“While this was not something we were planning on dealing with or something to celebrate, we decided early on that we were not going to let it define us, and that we would remain positive, look for the best in our circumstances, and use the diagnosis as a catalyst to help others also living with MS,” Canada-born Bickell said on a webpage of a MediaPlanet-produced website called the “Future of Personal Health.” In addition to about 165 stories featuring MS, the site has articles on other diseases and health issues.
After recovering from the news, Bickell and his wife, Amanda, enhanced the purpose of their foundation, initially founded to connect abused children with pit bull therapy dogs as a way of promoting healing. Now, the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Foundation includes training “pits” to be service dogs for MS. The effort is his and his wife’s way of turning a personal struggle into something positive.
Once accepted, the MS patient will be matched — free of charge — with a dog that will undergo training for up to a year. The dogs will act as a brace for those who can walk, but have balance and strength issues. They can, for example, retrieve dropped items, help patients retain balance during walking, turn lights off and on, and open doors. They also offer therapeutic emotional support and companionship. Go here to apply.
In addition to Bickell’s and other patients’ stories, the campaign spotlights vital information for newly diagnosed MS patients, including potential transportation issues and the evolution of treatments, according to a press release.
Available widely online — including on social media platforms — and in some regional editions of USA Today, information from the campaign will also be distributed in print form at conferences including the Community Transportation Association of America Expo 2019 and the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers annual meeting.