Monday March 19th 2018

‘Liberation’ from disease

After years of praying, Sharon Krar got her miracle.

The Grimsby resident has gained a new lease on life after receiving what she calls the cure to her multiple sclerosis.

Diagnosed with the debilitating disease 25 years ago, the 49-year-old mother of three has begun rebuilding her life and shedding the symptoms that have taken a toll on her body, but not her spirit.

In October, Sharon travelled to Costa Rica for two weeks alongside her personal support worker.

It wasn’t a trip for leisure, it was a trip to save her life. Her dreams of getting the controversial “liberation’ treatment” — based on a theory by Dr. Paolo Zamboni that suggests MS is caused by blocked veins — were about to come true.

On Oct. 9, Sharon underwent the procedure, which took about 40 minutes to complete. When she awoke in recovery, the first thing she did was look at her hands.

Sharon’s MS had left her unable to move her right hand, but almost immediately the feeling returned. She says she brought her hands up in a praying motion, in awe of the movement that had come so quickly.

Excited to share the remarkable news, Sharon called home to husband Alan, who was unable to fly to Costa Rica as he’s awaiting a hip replacement.

Unbeknownst to her, earlier that day Alan had brought home a painting of praying hands that was given to him by an artist visiting the couple’s church in Ridgeway. The painting, which hangs in the family’s kitchen, is now a daily reminder of hope and faith, Sharon says.

With a background filled with the staples of autumn, it’s also a reminder of where she was when the leaves began to turn and fall this year.

“I missed fall, but look what I got,” she says, lifting her arms upward.

“It’s an amazing miracle this treatment. It’s something I have prayed for.”

As the treatment is not available in Canada, Sharon was originally going to travel to Albany, N.Y., but the date for her procedure kept getting pushed back farther and farther. Fearing little time to spare in her life, Sharon decided it was time to travel to Costa Rica.

Over the past seven years, Sharon’s ability to walk had disappeared and she spent the past two years confined to her wheelchair.

“Things are coming back now,” she says with a smile, explaining that she’s now able to take a few brief steps.

Her family is confident she’ll be on her feet by Christmas, knowing the determination Sharon has to rebuild her life.

“She’s working on strengthening her balance and ability to walk,” her husband says.

Alan Krar says the greatest changes after the procedure are expected to take place after three months. At only a month and a half in, he’s amazed at the progress his wife has made.

Once plagued with positional vertigo, her dizziness has disappeared and her balance has returned, he says. With movement in her hands, she’s also able to feed herself and do other daily tasks she previously could not.

“I couldn’t even hold a pen before, and now I can write,” she says, joking that she’s taken back the job of paying bills from her husband.

There are a lot of little things in life that people take for granted, says Sharon, determined to make the most of her newfound movement.

Sharon’s physiotherapy, which she has five days a week, has been helping to increase her muscle strength.

“This is someone who could barely lift a fork, now she’s lifting weights,” says Alan, as Sharon quips that she keeps asking him to check out her “pipes.”

It’s that humour that has “gotten the whole family through living with MS,” Alan says.

Sharon credits the community, her family and friends that provided her with her miracle. Overall cost to get the procedure done was about $18,000, she said, which would not have been possible if not for fundraising efforts.

The procedure, known as an angioplasty, uses a balloon to clear any blockage in the veins in the neck.

“To have this not accepted in Canada …” Sharon said, finding it hard to get the words out.

The Canadian government had decided to forego clinical trials at this time, instead opting to fund research exploring the connection between blocked veins and MS.

There are close to 25 countries in the world that perform the liberation treatment, says Alan, who is not able to understand why Canada won’t allow it.

“There’s no excuse for this. If people want it, they should be able to get it. They know the risks. This could change your life in 40 minutes.”

“I encourage people with MS not to dismiss this as a treatment or a cure,” Sharon says.

“For me, it’s a cure. They call it ‘liberation.’ That’s what it is. It’s freedom. Hello, I’ve got my life back!”

Sharon is now putting her focus on “building on what was once taken from me.”

“Things will come day by day, and eventually they will stay,” she says.

Her “big goal” is to once again play fastball with her 16-year-old daughter Lisa, and to share a special dance with Alan.

The couple were married in 2003 but were never able to have their dance due to Sharon’s condition.

“I want her to walk into my graduation,” Lisa says, smiling at her mom.

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