Evansville Clinic Offers Affordable Help to Muscular Dystrophy Patients

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

There are only 230 outpatient clinics maintained by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Evansville is lucky enough to be home to one of them. And what is even better, the clinic just upgraded to a new facility at St. Mary's Medical Center. One that will take MD patients into what will hopefully be a very promising future.

An elevator for patients in wheelchairs, medical supplies, exam tables and a conference room. All things that we're used to seeing at a doctor's office, but for the Muscular Dystrophy Association sponsored outpatient clinic in Evansville, much of it is stuff they used to do without. The facility director, Dr. Ray Nicholson, explains what he had to work with at the former clinic site.

"Mostly what I carried in my bag and each room was not fully equipped as it is here. So we're better off in a real doctor's office," Nicholson says.

Every third Wednesday of the month, the OB-GYN floor of St. Mary's becomes the MDA Clinic, seeing around 125 patients from all over the region who can come here for free. Services that aren't covered by individual insurance plans end up getting paid by a $13,000 grant from the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.

Dr. Nicholson says the smiles you see on TV from the patients who live with one of the 42 neuromuscular diseases carry over to each of their office visits. He says they have an indomitable spirit.

"You think you're really not doing anything for them. For example, someone might have a leg that's turned out. We'll sit there all day with your leg turned out and find out what happens to your thigh muscles, and how they hurt and so forth," says Dr. Nicholson. "And we'll design something to push that into alignment and it makes all the difference in the world to them. And you would think that we solved cancer or something from how we're able to help them."

At the clinic, patients see doctors, nurses, respiratory and physical therapists, pulmonologists, cardiologists and a host of other specialists all under one roof.

And with the Telethon money that goes to research, scientists have been able to crack the genetic code that causes muscular dystrophy. Dr. Nicholson says he really believes that within the next ten years, researchers will be able to develop proteins that will correct many of the diseases.