Heidi Jo Hagstrom needed to postpone being interviewed for RCM magazine. She was recuperating from a flare-up of multiple sclerosis, but to see her, you’d probably never know.
“It depends on how [MS] presents; it’s different for all people,” Hagstrom says when she is up for our inquisition. “Usually, for me, some part of my body goes numb. This time I had trouble with my eyes. I couldn’t focus well and was sensitive to light.”
Other times, the MS makes Hagstrom dog-tired. Still other times, one of her legs will drag or she will start stumbling. Mostly, the disease presents in numbness overtaking some part of her body. She can usually carry on at the time, but she looks for the first opportunity for relief, either with a course of steroids and/or rest.
But don’t pity Hagstrom. She is doing pretty well for herself despite having lived with MS for more than 20 years. In fact, you might think that she’s an over-achiever, holding the position of director of the ELCA Youth Gathering for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“It has not really affected my life or my job,” she says. “I give myself daily shots, so when I travel, I have to haul them with me. I’m grateful that I do respond to medicine.”
But things are changing.
“I don’t know if I’m entering a new phase,” Hagstrom says, “but my neurologist has told me to figure out a different pace for my life. This job is stressful. Being responsible for 36,000 people at an event is stressful. Being in hot climates is always dangerous for people with MS, and our events are always in hot climates.”
It does, naturally, make an outsider wonder why she keeps doing it.
“For me, it’s about a sense of call,” she says. “I believe that I am called to serve in this way. It is my God-given vocation. And I love what I do.”