by Stephanie Singer, Intern (Virginia Wesleyan College)
Karen C. has a condition called myasthenia pravis. Trying to say it will twist your tongue. That was the least of Karen’sÂ concerns. This condition rendered twisting, or any other motion, almost impossible.
Myasthenia pravis is an autoimmune disease in which antibodies attack the areas where nerves and muscles join. This causes limited mobility.
â€śThe condition is difficult,â€ť said the 54-year-old woman, who has troubleÂ walking any further than the length of her kitchen.
One of the medications doctors prescribed was Prednisone. The drug is an immunosuppressant, meaning that it weakens the immune system. It is prescribed for diseases such as myasthenia pravis.
Unfortunately, Prednisone was not a miracle pill for Karen. Instead, it contributed to another problem: osteoporosis. HerÂ bones became very brittle. Four of her vertebrae broke, and she contracted lumbar pseudarthrosis. This limited her mobility even further.
After being diagnosed with pseudarthrosis, Karen was told she needed rods in her spine, which she was able to have installed. But in February, one of the rods snapped as she was reaching into her washing machine to pull out a shirt.
Karen needed spinal surgery. There was a long road ahead.
From Greenville to Duke University
The first hospital Karen went to was in Greenville, North Carolina. The doctors recommended a body cast but refused to perform spinal surgery. Karen had to look elsewhere for treatment.
Duke Universityâ€™s medical center had Dr. Richardson, an expert on spinal surgery, on staff. Karen didnâ€™t have the resources to travel all the way toÂ Durham. One of her friends mentioned she hadÂ a nephew who flew for Angel Flight. With the help of this volunteer pilot, Karen was able to fly to Duke Â for the surgery.
â€śI have never met anyone whoâ€™s more generous, more kind, or more thoughtful than the pilots for Angel Flight,â€ť Karen said.
She was found to be a candidate for plasmapheresis. With this procedure, a patientâ€™s original plasma is replaced with donated plasma. Itâ€™s a fairly new treatment, but it has proven effective in people with autoimmune diseases.
Healing on Wings
Karen has endured a lot of pain from her conditions. But when she travels with Angel Flight, a miracle happens.
â€śOne thing thatâ€™s really amazing is when Iâ€™m flying, I donâ€™t feel any pain,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s probably a gift from God.â€ť
She’s flown with Angel Flight many times. Although her life is full of difficulties, she remains positive.
â€śI guess itâ€™s taught me that even out of hard times, good can come out.â€ť