Living With Multiple Sclerosis | Scott Bates Hero Story
Despite living with multiple sclerosis (MS), Marine Corps veteran Scott Bates continues to live by the mantra, “no limitations because of disease.”
Scott’s life is a testament to that statement, and he’s turned his diagnosis of MS – an autoimmune disease that attacks myelin in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves -- into something positive: a passion for graphic design that not only gives him a sense of personal fulfillment, but also helps others.
“A lot of people are discouraged when they’re diagnosed with something like this,” Scott says. “But it opened another door for me and showed me a talent that I didn’t know existed. I was always too busy before, and I never would have learned graphic design if I hadn’t gotten MS.”
Scott says his wife, Kathy, who was previously a computer tech, introduced him to graphic design programs in 2003, shortly after his disease had progressed to the point where he could not walk very well. Over time, he learned the various graphic design programs and even entered a contest to design a car for NASCAR, which has long been one of his hobbies, he says.
“I really love doing this work because it is one of the only things I can do by myself without any assistance from anyone,” Scott says.
Scott, 49, says his MS started in the mid-1980s while he was a Marine with the 2nd and 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Very little was known about MS at that time, he says, causing him to be misdiagnosed with everything from depression to being called crazy. In 2005, the disease progressed to the point where Scott had to be in a wheelchair.
“I can still stand, but I have no balance and cannot take steps,” he says. “Without the help of my wonderful family to assist me to do other things like moving from my chair to the bed, I would be lost.”
And it’s been his family – his wife, daughter Valerie and her husband Tim – that have helped him manage the disease and continue his passion for design. In fact, when the disease progressed to the point where Scott could no longer use his hands, Valerie began looking for a solution that would help him continue to work on his computer. “At that point, I told my daughter, ‘I’m done,’” he says.
But after searching the Internet, Valerie found a head-controlled, reflection-operate mouse that Scott wears on the brim of his hat. The mouse allows him to choose shapes, colors, shades and strokes. Since the VA would not help pay for it, the family managed to scrape together $700 to buy it, Scott says. “It just saved my life,” he says. “My days are spent by the computer designing a car or a logo for someone, or work on my website.”
And Scott is using his graphic design talents for good: he’s designed logos for charities representing everything from MS to breast cancer. His design work and online outreach through his website and Twitter feed even resulted in a new friendship that enabled him to design a car for NASCAR driver J.J. Yeley in the Kobalt Tools 500 in Arizona in 2011. The company that sponsors Yeley even flew the family to Arizona to attend the race.
“God shows you a way,” Scott says. “I believe everything happens for a reason, and even though being disabled can be depressing at times, you have to try to focus on the good things you still can do.”
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.