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Former sports car enthusiast Roger Schnabel misses driving but still logs about 5 miles a day on his three-wheel cycle despite his struggle with multiple sclerosis.
By JULIANNE WU
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001
CLEARWATER -- When he was younger, Roger Schnabel loved to race sports cars.
Now 60, he uses a motorized wheelchair or a tricycle to get around.
Schnabel, who lives in Clearwater, has multiple sclerosis. The active volunteer is the local honoree at Saturday's MS Walk at Coachman Park. It is one of five MS walks being held Saturday in Florida, sponsored by the Mid-Florida Chapter of the MS Society.
Schnabel is a Detroit native and worked as a computer programmer in Ohio. The father of four grown daughters in Ohio, he moved to Florida in 1987.
Schnabel began noticing symptoms when he was in his late 20s. He began stumbling and his speech became slurred.
"The doctors thought it was a tumor at first," he said.
But eight doctors and 10 tests later, it was determined to be multiple sclerosis.
Although MS most often strikes people in their 20s, "it can strike people as young as 8 and those in their 60s," Schnabel said.
Difficulty walking generally is the first problem. Loss of vision, double vision, loss of balance and weakness in an arm or a leg also may occur. Numbness or tingling in the fingers and problems of coordination also are common. The disease, which attacks the nervous system, will continue to cause worsening complications. There is no cure.
Schnabel had to stop driving when he moved to Florida.
"That's what I miss the most," said Schnabel, who now gets around his neighborhood across from the Countryside Mall in a motorized wheelchair.
For other things, such as doctor appointments or MS meetings he coordinates and attends in Dunedin, Largo and St. Petersburg, he uses a wheelchair-transport service.
He can stand briefly to wash or dry his clothes in his mobile home. He eats mostly TV dinners or goes out occasionally with friends.
Right now, he said, he manages to get around okay.
"But I know I'm getting worse," he said. "My eyesight is failing and I don't have the stamina I once had."
Schnabel said he likes to read library books, but soon will turn to audio and video books.
He still bikes about 5 miles a day around the mobile home park and swims in the pool "when it's warm enough."
Schnabel has some advice for people who have aches and pains or other symptoms they can't explain: "Go to a doctor right away. Now, with MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), they can find MS so much faster. Then keep doing the things you can do and plan for the future, when you won't be able to do some things."
Now that spring conditions have started, schools of huge permit will reside on many offshore wrecks. Before last week's foul weather, permit were reported on several spots off the Suncoast. Vince DiLella, fishing with Ernie Rubio, landed permit up to 40 pounds while freelining baits in 45 feet of water off St. Petersburg
Several others have reported schools off Clearwater and Tarpon Springs. The key to permit fishing is bait. Big permit are very smart and tough to fool. They can occasionally be tempted with shrimp but by far the best bait is a small, live blue crab. Even with the right bait you often have to use light line and flourocarbon leader.
Last March we discovered a massive school of permit on the surface over a little-known wreck. We cast live crabs on 30-pound spinning rods into herds of big permit with no bites. Each time they would rush the bait, inspect it, then turn away. Finally we switched to lighter rods, rigged with 15 feet of flourocarbon leader, and hooked up immediately. Finding bait-sized crabs can be difficult. Few bait shops carry them and most are on reserve for preferred customers.
One can usually acquire a few by wading mangrove edges at low tide with a small dip net. I used to catch them under the cleaning table at the marina after the other guides left. Since most offshore permit are more than 20 inches, there is a limit of one per person. We release nearly all but occasionally bring one home for the grill.
- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail TarponEd@aol.com.