Amy Haskell was celebrating her daughter's 18th birthday at the Whetstone Restaurant and Brewery in Brattleboro on the 2nd of June.
As she was walking back from getting a cup of coffee at the pickup window, she stumbled, prompting the man at a nearby table to call out loudly, "Are you drunk?"
Amy's first instinct was to keep walking and not say anything, but something in her wouldn't let it go.
Amy was visibly upset, trying not to cry as she looked at the man. "I said, "no, thank you, I have MS, and you just pointed out the one thing that I am the most self-conscious about," Amy told Compass Vermont.
That was all Amy could do when it happened, but she felt the need to say more before letting it go. So she posted on a local social media group as well as an MS support group.
The comments of support continue to pour in days later, but Amy wants the focus to be on others who may not feel as supported.
"I do know the if you don't have anybody close to you, it's hard. I just want to speak for the people who can't speak up for themselves."
I walk into a lot of walls
Amy grew up in Chester, moved away for several years, then returned to her hometown 18 years ago. She lives with her husband and daughter, and her parents live nearby.
Amy was diagnosed with MS 12 years ago. MS impacts around one million Americans and over 1,500, or 1 in 400 Vermonters. The Mayo Clinic describes MS as "a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body."
One specific impact on Amy was her balance.
"Man, I walk into a lot of walls," she said, somewhat exasperated. "I have black and blues on my arms cause I catch myself on doorways."
He holds my hand everywhere I go
Amy says her family has been there for her every step of the way. Her parents are constantly there to help, and her daughter and husband provide "fantastic support," even though her husband works long hours as a trucker.
"He holds my hand everywhere I go," she said, noting that his job kept him from being at his daughter's birthday celebration.
All of the support for her illness doesn't mean Amy isn't fully engaged by any means. She works one full-time and one part-time job. She worked right through the pandemic, including her usual Monday schedule from 8 am until 11 pm.
Learning from a devastating fall
Amy believes she is a positive person with a good sense of humor, which is undoubtedly supported by the public response to her post. She credits a lot of her attitude and motivation to one bad day years ago.
"There are seven stairs out my front door and down to my driveway," she said. There is cement at the bottom of the stairs. I was standing on a stair when I fell to the bottom. I broke three bones in my face, broke a rib, dislocated a wrist, received a concussion, and lacerated my liver."
Not wanting for that ever to happen again, she started working to make sure it doesn't.
On top of working two jobs, Amy goes to the gym seven days a week. She now takes kickboxing lessons twice a week and spin classes three times a week. Amy focuses on strengthening her legs and finding balance in her feet. "It's super hard, but I love it," she said.
"My balance has recently improved. I feel fantastic. I haven't had a relapse in years, which is awesome. Working on my balance, I can go up and down a couple of stairs without holding on."
Always open to a discussion
Amy said it was the first time in her 12 years with MS that someone has made a rude comment about her condition, but there are plenty of other reactions.
Asked if something like this happened to her again, what she would do differently, she said, "not cry."
"I've had a lot of looks when they see me walk, and I try to look away. Most of the time, I am looking down, making sure my feet are going in the right direction."
"I do run into a lot of walls. Sometimes I just wish people wouldn't even notice. It just happens. Every day is something new. A new normal every day - as I work to make myself stronger."
"I am definitely open about my MS, and if you want to have a discussion about it that's just fine. I am one of the most positive people you will meet - and I just want to speak up for people who can't speak for themselves."
Editor's note: Amy Haskell made it clear that the staff and management at Whetstone Restaurant and Brewery were extremely supportive and helpful at the time of the incident.
Editor's note: The cases in Vermont was corrected to say 1 in 400. It previously stated 1 in four.