Miss Kentucky, Ramsey Carpenter, is a Winner in My Book!

Tonight I tuned into the Miss America 2015 pageant, live from Atlantic City, NJ, just in time to see Ramsey Carpenter, Miss Kentucky, included as a semi-finalist. Normally I would root for the representative from my home state, Oklahoma, but tonight my attention turned to the bluegrass fiddler from Kentucky.

Not only is Ramsey an award-winning musician - she received the top prize during Wednesday night’s preliminary talent competition for her medley performance of “Sally Good’n” and “Orange Blossom Special” - she has also been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

As I read about her 2010 MS diagnosis and watched an interview she gave with her best friend posted on YouTube1, I thought back to before my own diagnosis. Ramsey tells that she began experiencing pins-and-needles in her hands and feet during finals week at college. She was also fatigued, confused and short-tempered.2 The campus doctors thought that once the semester was over and stress levels returned to normal, Ramsey’s symptoms would resolve and they did.

But in August when Ramsey took out her fiddle to play for her grandfather’s birthday - something she had done each year for many years - she made a horrifying discovery. “I could probably play [the song Sally Good’n] in my sleep if I tried to. But that day, looking at my hands as I tried to play, I couldn’t control my fingers.” Her Papa made a joke and asked if she was feeling kinda rusty.

“At that point in time I reached my breaking point. For the rest of his birthday, as my family sat together, they tried to comfort me through an emotional breakdown. I was devastated,” said Ramsey. “Because now, not only was I experiencing the strange symptoms, something I dearly loved had been taken from me and I couldn't play anymore.”

Oh boy, I can relate to that feeling. Each year my students perform on an annual studio recital, the end of which I always play something special. In 2005 I chose Claude Debussy’s Arabesque No.1, a flurry of a piece I had performed in college. Shortly into my own performance, I realized that I could not feel the piano keys under my left fingers. It was extremely disturbing and I quickly became embarrassed by my perceived less than stellar performance. Notes just didn’t ring when/where I wanted them to. Numbness was overtaking my left hand.

Ramsey was diagnosed with MS within days following her grandfather’s birthday. I was finally diagnosed with MS later in 2005 after I lost full use of my left arm, hand, and fingers.
Since Ramsey’s diagnosis, she has served as a spokesperson for the National MS Society, Kentucky/Southeast Indiana chapter. Currently she is symptom-free,3 but that could change at any time. Her platform in the 2015 Miss America competition was MS awareness and her goal is to help find a cause and a cure. Ramsey says that she tries to stay healthy and “listen to her body”.4

"Ramsey has been extraordinarily supportive of the MS movement and the work of the society," said Arney Rosenblat, associate vice president of NMSS public affairs. "She is deeply engaged with our Kentucky-Southeast Indiana Chapter and has raised funds to help end MS through such events as Bike MS and Walk MS. She has also spoken at a number of chapter events".2

"I am not looking for pity," said Carpenter, who keeps her symptoms at bay with medication. "I just want to help people understand the disease."

Ramsey is currently a student at the University of Kentucky, pursuing her master’s degree in media specialist librarian services and a Ph.D. in administration. She hopes to eventually become an educator and administrator, providing assistance to students with learning disabilities.5

Although Ramsey Carpenter did not become the 2015 Miss America afterall, she is still a winner in my book.

Lisa Emrich | Follow me on Facebook |Follow me on Twitter | Follow me on Pinterest

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