Sunday March 18th 2018

MS sufferer gets good news

After years of hoping for any sign of her condition improving, Dawn Smith can now move her fingers.

The Parry Sounder who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1983, found out previously blocked veins had reopened, during a trip to Rhode Island for surgery.

Smith, who traveled to the United States planning to have a liberation treatment to open blocked jugular veins, constricting blood flow to the central nervous system, was told she was one of four people out of 400 patients, whose veins reopened without the treatment.

The trip was her second venture to Rhode Island, after being turned away the first time due to Cellulitis, an infection in her legs. When the doctor looked at her veins as part of a pre-surgery procedure, he was pleased to tell her it wasn’t needed.

“He told me it was probably because of the baby aspirin I’ve been taking,” said Smith Wednesday. “He was amazed.”

Previously, Smith suffered from severe pressure headaches, leg spasms and couldn’t move her body from the neck down.

Now, she is able to lift her shoulders up and down, her headaches have subsided, her leg spasms aren’t as severe and when she’s not feeling too hot, she can move her hands.

She can even manage to pull her arms back towards her body, if they are stretched outwards.
For Smith, it’s a miracle she’d only ever dreamt of.

“After I found out, the nurse in Rhode Island said “squeeze my hands”,” she said. “So I did, and then she said “you’re right handed aren’t you”, because my right hand was a little stronger. I had no idea I could even do that. My veins must have opened somewhere in the last six to eight months.”

Smith said there was, however, one indicator she hadn’t clued into.

“A woman across the hall had knit me rolls to put in my hands, so that my fingernails wouldn’t dig into the palms of my hands,” she said, noting her hands were previously retracted and stiff. “(The rolls) kept falling out and I couldn’t figure out why.”

When Dawn returned home, there were flowers waiting for her in her room at Belevedere Heights, where she lives.

“The nurses were all very happy for me,” she said with a smile.

Now, Dawn is receiving physiotherapy to attempt to further better her condition.

Carol Cascanette, Smith’s mother, is happy to see her daughter’s condition improve.

“(Smith) is emotionally and psychologically doing a lot better,” she said. “If the blood thinners or the aspirin have anything to do with it…I’ll take it.”

Cascanette’s other daughter, who also suffers from the debilitating disease, also traveled to Rhode Island to receive liberation treatment.

Her condition is much better, and while she wasn’t previously confined to a wheelchair, the treatment has relieved her of severe headaches, tingling limbs, and she no longer walks with a cane.

“Both of them are improving – thank God,” said Cascanette last week. “When you’re in that condition going uphill is better than going downhill.”

For Cascanette, seeing Smith move her fingers and shoulders is an emotional sight.
“I have to thank everyone in this town,” she said, remembering the full house at the Dinner for Dawn benefit earlier this year. “There’s not a better place to live – there’s not. I don’t care what anyone says.”

Cascanette said the nurses at Belevedere were in tears when they saw Smith’s improvement.

“The people at Belevedere – well, there aren’t words,” she said. “They are just the best.”

Last week, Smith enjoyed a couple days at CNIB camp on Lake Joseph in MacTier.

“Almost everywhere you go is wheelchair accessible,” she said, noting the well-maintained grounds and exceptional scenery.

“You’ve never seen anything like it – it’s gorgeous, just gorgeous. I had no idea it was that beautiful.”

Clearly in good spirits, Smith recounted meeting an old friend at the camp and sitting by the water.

“We all had such a great time,” she said.

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