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Friday, February 24, 2012

Teacher with MS fights to keep the music playing


By JESSICA MASULLI REYES
SPARTA -- In August 2009, Melany McQueeny, of Sparta, was traveling with her soon-to-be husband, Matthew McQueeny, to visit family in New York when she noticed a tingling in her ring and pinky fingers.
"I said to my husband, ‘I think I slept on my hand,'" Melany McQueeny said. But the "pins and needles" feeling progressed through her torso over the next three days.
By the end of the weekend, the 29-year-old knew she needed to call a doctor. After one month of tests, McQueeny finally had an answer -- relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
"I was devastated," McQueeny remembered. "It has affected my hands and arms permanently."
While multiple sclerosis can be devastating for anyone, McQueeny was especially terrified that her passion for playing piano and clarinet would be cut short. She was concerned that her job as an instrumental music teacher at Mount Olive Middle School would become more and more difficult as the multiple sclerosis flared up.
It did become more difficult, but this hasn't stopped McQueeny.
Multiple sclerosis, commonly referred to as MS, is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissue, according to Web MD. The disease damages the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, resulting in loss of muscle control, vision, balance and sensation.
For McQueeny, this has meant that feeling the holes on her clarinet or pressing the keys on her piano has become difficult. McQueeny describes the feeling as "rubber band hands" where at times her hands feel numb and unusable.
"I thought for a while that I wouldn't be able to play anymore," she said. But McQueeny practiced every day and used muscle memory to cover the holes of the clarinet. She was able to purchase a piano that was easier for pushing the keys.
"I work hard at it," she said.
These new techniques, including taking more breaks in between playing, taking medication and using a neck strap with the clarinet, have made it possible for McQueeny to continue as a music teacher and take her music career to a higher level.
McQueeny, originally from Byram, started reading music before words, according to her mother, and at a young age she started playing the piano and then the clarinet. She studied music at The College of New Jersey, before moving on to get a master's degree at Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins Conservatory in Baltimore.
She has played with the Hanover Wind Symphony and th Eastern Wind Symphony, but most recently she was asked to be a substitute principal clarinet for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania. She had played with the Allentown-based orchestra in October 2008, before her multiple sclerosis diagnosis.



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Disclaimer:  'MS Views and News' (MSVN), does not endorse any products or services found on this blog. It is up to you to seek advice from your healthcare provider. The intent of this blog is to provide information on various medical conditions, medications, treatments, and procedures for your personal knowledge and to keep you informed of current health-related issues. It is not intended to be complete or exhaustive, nor is it a substitute for the advice of your physician. Should you or your family members have any specific medical problem, seek medical care promptly.
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