Taking Charge of MS: Sarah’s Story
An experienced traveller with a penchant for embracing the unknown, Sarah was in her prime before she received a medical diagnosis that would change her life forever.
At 22-years-old, Sarah was training for a career in business at the University of Calgary, setting herself up for a lucrative career that would allow her to travel the world while enveloping herself in different lifestyles and cultures. Realizing the importance of travel to her independence and personal growth, Sarah had ambitions to go to Europe, Tanzania, Morocco—anywhere she could find inspiration through transformative experiences.
Back in Canada amid her travels, Sarah started experiencing inflammation and blurred vision in her right eye. She underwent several medical examinations and was diagnosed with optic neuritis, a condition where swelling damages the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the eye to the brain.
While her medical team advised Sarah her optic neuritis would resolve on its own, it was the long-term diagnosis that shook her to the core. Optic neuritis is a precursor of multiple sclerosis—a debilitating autoimmune disease with no known cure that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Scared, despondent and apprehensive about the future, Sarah decided to double down on her travel plans. She had landed a job at a Calgary-based national railway company and started saving in hopes of financing her travels. With only sporadic MS symptoms affecting her life, including some issues with her eyes and a leg drop on her right side, Sarah began crossing off the list of places she dreamed of travelling.
In 2014, when Sarah was in her early 30s, she experienced an MS flare-up, inclusive of recurring leg drops—a symptom of MS caused by weakness in the ankle or disruption in the nerve pathway between the leg and the brain. Leg drops make it difficult to lift the front of the foot, causing balance and gait issues. It was at this moment, thousands of kilometres away from home, Sarah started to come to terms with her MS.
Treating Gait Deficit
When she returned home, Sarah vigorously pursued various treatment options to mitigate her MS symptoms. She adopted a gluten-free and dairy-free diet and in 2016 started doing physiotherapy at the Synaptic clinic in Calgary. The certified physical trainers worked with Sarah on her gait issues, particularly on her right side. They helped her understand what was physically happening to her body, while guiding her through strenuous exercises aimed at improving her gait and endurance.
Through the Synaptic clinic, Sarah learned about PoNS Treatment™, a 14-week program that combines mild stimulation of the tongue with targeted therapeutic activities aimed at creating a neuroplastic effect, which may improve gait deficits suffered as a result of mild or moderate symptoms from MS. In 2020, with nothing to lose, Sarah took the plunge.
She attended PoNS Treatment™ education sessions, consuming as much information as possible about neuromodulation and the brain’s ability to make adaptive changes related to the structure and function of the nervous system. Sarah also learned about the benefits of the PoNS™ device, an innovative, non-surgical medical device that stimulates the tongue’s surface, exciting the neural network flowing to the brain.
The first three days of Sarah’s PoNS Treatment™ were challenging, requiring dedication and concentration, but soon after Sarah began to see noticeable improvements in her gait. She got into a routine with her daily exercises, focused exclusively on addressing those gait issues. She has already seen noticeable improvements in her gait and endurance as a result of her therapy, specifically when it comes to strength and movement control, and this in turn has helped to improve her balance.
While the COVID-19 pandemic hit nine weeks into her program, forcing Synaptic to move to virtual sessions, Sarah was able to complete the exercises at home and receive ample support from her trainer.
Having dealt with her MS diagnosis for 17 years now, Sarah said she has gained confidence in her ability to manage her MS, both physically and emotionally. The specialized physical therapy treatments, coupled with use of the PoNS™ device and the educational and emotional support of her Certified PoNS™ Trainers, has enabled Sarah to improve her gait. This improvement in function cements her fortitude knowing that she has one more tool in her toolbox to take charge of her MS.
Disclaimer: The PoNS™ device is intended for use as a short term treatment (14 weeks) of chronic balance deficit due to mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury and is to be used in conjunction with physical therapy. Individual patient results and experiences may vary.