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Healing Is Wholistic vBy Aimee Huntley Having good health is easy to take for granted when all the other hurdles of daily living keep our attention focused elsewhere. But once something in our bodies mysteriously malfunctions, we are often taken completely off guard, and may feel very frightened and powerless. Most people expect changes to occur with age and dismiss minor things like diminishing eyesight, hearing, or weight gain to the process of maturing. In 2010, Karen Jelsma attributed her headaches and recent cognitive changes to menopause. In 2013 she surprised everyone at the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls, when she decided to retire from her position as a well-liked correctional officer. She felt that she was forgetting some of the things she needed to do for the job at the jail. Another symptom Karen would acquire is unilaterally called brain fog. “I would read something and know that I saw the words, but I couldn’t understand what they meant.” It wasn’t until March 4, 2014 that Karen’s health took a decided nose dive. “I remember the exact date, because it was my dad’s birthday. It started with a severe headache that got so bad it hurt to blink. By the next day, I had lost my vision. I pretty much lost use of everything on my right side. I would fall down because, I couldn’t feel anything, and my nervous system had shut down. I couldn’t hold dishes. Some mornings I had to lay there and wait for my nervous system to start working, just so I could get out of bed.” Karen had initially gone to the Yankton Medical Clinic, but was referred right away to a neurologist in Sioux Falls. Subsequent MRI’s revealed five lesions in her brain. In addition to the vision loss, the neurologist also noticed a drop in her walk. Drop foot is a condition commonly found in people suffering from MS. It’s caused by nerve damage to the ankle muscles that make it difficult to lift the foot properly, which disrupts normal walking. Due to the culmination of symptoms and the MRI results, a formal diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis was made. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system goes haywire and starts attacking healthy tissues in the body. With MS it specifically destroys the myelin sheath that covers and protects the nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain. Once the nerve fibers are damaged, communication between the brain and body is altered and may show up in negative symptoms. Depending on where the nerve damage occurs and the duration, this respectively determines the locations, types and severity of symptoms. While MS isn’t usually fatal, it is a chronic, progressive disease that can still be debilitating and cause permanent loss of mobility and other disabilities. Karen says after she was diagnosed, “the doctors gave me this book about MS and what to expect, and it was so bleak. It took about three months after I got off my pity pot to finally decide to start doing some searching for answers.” This was because she was still having worsening symptoms all the time, even while on the drug Teclavir. Teclavir is a commonly prescribed drug for MS that costs around $5500 retail. Karen’s monthly portion was around $200. “I was applying for disability and only had my retirement check. I started watching online videos about MS, because I couldn’t focus enough to read a book, and 24vHERVOICEvSEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018

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