Mary Hill still grateful for life, even if things will never be the same
By Daniela Vazquez
CENTERFIELD — Life for Mary Hill was once active and full. Then, in 1996, she received awful news that would forever change the course of her life.
Hill was born on Aug. 28, 1949 and says she felt fairly healthy most of her life and did the things many people have done.
She graduated from Manti High, earned an associate’s degree of science from Snow College and then earned a degree in elementary education from the University of Utah in 1971.
Hill moved to Sanpete and found a job as a third-grade teacher in Gunnison a few short years after she received her teaching degree, and she remained in that position for 18 years.
She also had a love for the outdoors. She would spend her time skiing, hiking, camping and doing anything else a person can do in the great outdoors.
She said she would walk at least three miles every day, but it was on one of these daily walks that she had noticed something amiss with her foot movement.
“It got so when I would walk, my right foot would roll up, but then it would just slap down instead of the easy roll down. But it wasn’t painful, just irritating,” Hill said.
She finally uncovered what was ailing her after a doctor’s appointment and a multitude of tests. “I remember [the doctor] walking into his office just shaking his head and saying, ‘I just can’t believe it. You have MS.’”
For Hill, the diagnosis was nothing short of intimidating, because not only had she received such horrible news, but she also had been diagnosed with one of the rarest forms of the disease.
Hill has primary-progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS). According to MS statistics, only 10 percent of MS patients receive such a diagnosis, and symptoms continually worsen over time without the possibility of a remission phase.
Hill’s profound love of the outdoors had slowly, but surely, come to a halt. Before then, she had lived in the moment.
She said some of her fondest memories were when she and her sister-in-law, who was also in education, would take off after school and head up to Sundance Ski Resort to night ski.
“[At night] you saw the mountain like no other,” she recounted. “It was beautiful, and you were out in the open. It just felt good to be able to ski while feeling the breeze against your face as the snow flew behind you. It was just a really fun time.”
She had skied for years until MS had taken its final toll on her motor function. “It was a real downer, because the MS just kind of stifled everything.” And that included her love of playing the piano, which she said she would play for hours to release her frustrations.
Over the years, she has lost her motor skills from the neck down, and finally, she transitioned from her home in Mayfield to the Mission at Community assisted living center in Centerfield.
She said her husband, Danny Hill, visits her daily and, in a loving fashion, feeds her dinner each night.