Barry Z. Glucksman, 70, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 20 years ago, enjoys challenging himself.
Despite the fact that he has been in the secondary progressive stage of his disease for the last five years, he recently competed in the Rhode Island Senior Olympics and won a gold medal in the 50-yard backstroke.
“It’s so much fun,” said Glucksman. “I get a real kick out of the whole thing.”
While Glucksman was the sole competitor in his event, that doesn’t diminish his victory. Knowing he was able to participate is more valuable to him than any award.
“The truth of the matter is that the success was just being able to compete,” he said. “Winning a medal was just the frosting on the cake.”
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is a “chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.” A mild symptom is numbness in the limbs; however, more severe symptoms include paralysis or loss of vision. The progress and severity are unpredictable and vary from person to person, but new treatments and advances in research are giving hope to people impacted by the disease.
In Oct. 2011, Glucksman, who grew up in New Bedford and has been living in Warwick for more than 30 years, fell and cracked his hip, spending four months in a rehab hospital before beginning physical therapy at Rhode Island Rehab. He has been in a wheelchair ever since. Still, he is able to operate his Warwick-based promotional jewelry company AMCRAFT, located at 31 Algonquin Drive.
About a year ago, he started aquatic therapy with instructor Leslie Choquette at the Jewish Community Center in Providence. After a lot of stretching – and swimming – he was able to get to a point where he wanted to compete again, as he first took part in the event and won a bronze medal for the 100-yard backstroke four years ago.
“I started out with a float around my waist and gradually built my strength and confidence up,” said Glucksman, who has been swimming most of his life. “You’re able to do things in the water that you’re not able to do on land. In the pool, I can actually walk. That’s the most dramatic difference.”
On the day of the event, which was held June 8 at Rhode Island College, Choquette guided him to the building that houses the pool. And after learning that a crane that helps him get in and out of the pool wasn’t set up properly, she made sure he had access.
“Without her, I would not have been able to participate in the event,” he said.
At least 22 of his closest friends and relatives came to cheer him on, including his wife of 47 years, Suzanne, and a few of his six grandchildren, who made a sign that said, “Go, Zayde, go,” which is Yiddish for grandfather.
Their support, he said, meant the world to him, as does the support of his three sons, Richard, Daniel and Andrew. He also praised his caretaker, Susan Murphy, as well as his physical therapist, Courtney Macksoud.
“Support is really important,” said Glucksman.
Another thing that’s really important for people dealing with MS is to remember to exercise as much as possible. Staying active is key to a healthier body and mind.
“It’s easy to say but hard to do, but you have to retrain your mind to believe that you can do something,” Glucksman said. “You need to take baby steps and you’ve got to try a little bit. Believe in yourself and try to make a goal that you think you can reach but is a little bit beyond your reach at the present time. And try to have fun.”