By Daniel R. Gangler

One person that will be greatly missed behind the scene at the South Indiana Annual Conference session will be Sandra Blackwell, the former administrative assistant to Council Director Robert Sharp, who played an essential role during the session. Blackwell has served the South Indiana Conference since March 1991.

"She is greatly missed by me and others, but will not be returning (to this position). She is making some progress since she left," Sharp told Together.

Sharp says Blackwell is suffering from cervical dystonia and is on sick leave which will be followed by disability leave. She left her position the first week of January to center her energies on combating this disease.

Miller succeeds Blackwell

Succeeding Blackwell is Elsie Miller another conference administrative assistant, who now serves the South Indiana Conference as Council of Ministries office manager and administrative assistant to Sharp.

Meanwhile, Blackwell told Together that she has had two neurologists tell her that she has a classic textbook case of cervical dystonia, yet her general practitioner physician thought because of arthritis that the muscles in her neck were weak, so he prescribed physical therapy which made the dystonia worse.

She said, "My chiropractor was the one who said I needed to get an appointment with a neurologist and without him I may still have been battling the pain we thought was arthritis. I had never heard of dystonia until I was diagnosed in November 2005. Then I went through a three-month period of denial and saw an acupuncturist three times a week for three months.

"That wasn't the answer. I now receive botox injections four times a year and have been taking a couple of medicines that work in the brain. A major symptom besides the pain is the fatigue from the spasms. I am doing well on my treatment program but always appreciate prayers," she said.

Cervical dystonia

Blackwell has asked Together to share information about dystonia for the well being of others in Indiana.

According to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation based in Chicago, dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that causes muscles in the body to contract or spasm involuntarily. The involuntary muscle contractions cause twisting, repetitive and patterned movements as well as abnormal postures.

This disease affects men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds. Dystonia may be genetic or caused by factors such as physical trauma, exposure to certain medications or other neurological conditions. Cervical dystonia is sometimes hereditary. Since the underlying cause of cervical dystonia remains unknown, there is at present no cure for the condition. Treatment is directed towards symptomatic relief.

According to the foundation, here are the current forms of therapy:

  • Various medications are used for treating cervical dystonia.

  • Botulinum toxin injections into the overactive muscles appear to be the most effective treatment.

  • Selective peripheral denervation surgery.

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation has a Web site with information at www.dystonia-foundation.org.  Blackwell says her favorite dystonia Web site is www.spasmodictorticollis.org/ since this relates to cervical dystonia which is also called spasmodic torticollis.

For those wishing to send greetings to Blackwell, cards and letters can be addressed to Sandra Blackwell, 3992 W. Furr Ct., Bloomington, IN 47404. Your prayers will be greatly appreciated.