MG Walk, former nurse raising awareness about neuromuscular disease

 Imagine being a hard-working, active adult – a nurse who went to the gym every day, who liked to run, play the piano and sing – but then a neuromuscular disease hits, making it difficult to keep your eyes open, walk or even swallow.

That’s what myasthenia gravis is doing to a Metropolis, Ill. woman. It’s stealing her muscle strength to the point where she can no longer do the things she loves, but she’s fighting back and hopes you will help her.

Just about every morning you’ll find Paula McGinnis in a room filled with plants and sunshine, where she can pretend she’s outside and where she likes to paint.

“I’ve got to keep a positive attitude,” McGinnis says.

Watercolor is McGinnis’ new passion because it’s one activity she still has the strength to do. She has myasthenia gravis (MG), a chronic autoimmune disease in which antibodies attack and destroy neuromuscular connections. The result – her arms, her eyes and facial muscles don’t move the way she wants.

“I decided two things. I was not going to be bored and not going to be depressed,” McGinnis says.

But that has not been easy. McGinnis worked for years as a nurse, someone who looked to be active, a runner.

“It made me feel so good and now I can’t even walk,” McGinnis says.

She can’t sing or play the piano, either. Something her husband of 41 years misses.

“She did play piano a lot here at home and we miss having the music around,” says Jerry McGinnis.

Now, McGinnis paints and tries to raise awareness about the disease few people know anything about.

“It can be generalized,” McGinnis says. “You can just get leg and arm weakness, difficulty swallowing, chewing and in crisis is severe. That’s when the diaphragm muscle gets weak and a lot of times end up on a ventilator.”

That almost happened to McGinnis this past summer, and it made her think about doing something for the cause. She might not have a lot of energy, but like Superman in one of her paintings, she’s got a lot of strength. McGinnis is bringing the first Myasthenia Gravis Walk to the region to raise money for research. That’s what the walk is all about: Helping the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America.

The sunflower picture you see McGinnis painting in the video is on sale right now at the Papa Gallery on Broadway in downtown Paducah. McGinnis says if she sells the picture this month, she’s donating the proceeds to the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America.

Meanwhile, that first MG Walk is Saturday at noon. Teams will walk from the Lois Lane statue at 8th and Market streets in Metropolis to Superman Square. If you want to be a part of it, you can still sign up here.

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