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Skier Draws Attention to MS

DAILY CAMERA - June 10, 1999
By Ryan Thompson
Photo: Jason Millstein

Matt Bogue gets a helping hand from Krisann Knish at the Mount Sanitas Trailhead. Bogue, who has multiple sclerosis, leaves this month for a 471-mile hike along the Colorado Trail.

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), extreme skier Matthew Bogue has adopted what he refers to as the "can-do" attitude, and set out to prove that having MS does not mean living an inactive life.

On June 21 Bogue, 33, and his girlfriend, Krisann Knish, 30, will take on the Colorado Trail, a grueling 471-mile, eight- to 10-week trek from Denver to Durango.

"My main goal is to raise awareness for MS, whatever it takes," Bogue said. He's also doing it because he still can.

"An old lady with MS once asked me how I like the 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins. I thought she was crazy, but then she asked me how I liked the 31 flavors of MS. You never know what you're going to get. You never know how it will be tomorrow."

Originally from a small town in New Hampshire, Bogue moved west to ski, landing in Breckenridge when he was 21.

Nine years later he was diagnosed with MS, a degenerative brain and spinal chord disease that affects the nervous system.

It all started in 1996, when Bogue began to notice blind spots in his vision. A visit to New Jersey-based Will's Eyes Clinic, and a follow-up visit to the Rocky Mountain MS Clinic, confirmed he had MS.

While the diagnosis did not immediately affect Bough's lifestyle, it changed his attitude. "As soon as I got diagnosed, I sold my business, and just started traveling," he said. He traveled to Africa, where he skied several first descents on Mount Kenya, and the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Meanwhile, his eyesight continued to deteriorate.

On a ski trip in the former Soviet Union, "things got real bad," Bogue said. The snow conditions were extremely dangerous and the stress hit Bogue hard.

"My body was going wacko," he said. "I was putting myself in a position to die." When Bogue returned to Colorado, doctors put him on steroids, which Knish administered intravenously at home. Bogue continued to remain active. "

He was still trying to do push-ups and go climbing," Knish said.

Around the same time, Boulder physician Erin Elster heard about Bogue through a newspaper article.

Elster, the only upper cervical specialist in, Colorado, bases her practice on "the impact the upper cervical spine has on the nervous system." Elster uses her hands to adjust the area, and, with a high-tech monitoring device, checks for precision. Bogue credits the treatment for alleviating many of his symptoms, including blindness, bladder control problems, sleeplessness, heat sensitivity, and imbalance.

Earlier this year, Bogue attended the Jimmy, Huega Medical Program in North Carolina. Founded by an Olympic medallist ski racer who was diagnosed with MS, the program stresses staying active as the best remedy.

That philosophy has inspired Bogue. "That's what this Colorado Trail is all about," he said, noting he hopes to take on the Appalachian Trail next year. "It's for people with MS, or any other disability... to teach these people to adopt the 'can-do' attitude... Nothing is, out of reach."