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Woman with MS gets new lease on life in Mexico

She's taking it slowly, but already the difference in her mobility is incredible. Two months ago, Karrie Harcourt of Watrous needed both a cane and the support of a wall to walk.
Karrie Harcourt of Watrous can now stand and walk without the aid of a cane after undergoing Liberation Treatment for her Multiple Sclerosis symptoms in Mexico.

She's taking it slowly, but already the difference in her mobility is incredible.
Two months ago, Karrie Harcourt of Watrous needed both a cane and the support of a wall to walk. She could hardly stand on her own, never mind kneel down or get up without relying heavily on her cane.
Last week, she demonstrated not only how she no longer needs a cane to walk, but she can get down on her knees and back up again without leaning on anything.
Grinning, she sat down in a chair and crossed her legs - something she was unaware she couldn't do before undergoing a new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Mexico last month.
"I still carry a cane with me, in case I fall," she admitted. "My legs aren't strong enough yet. But I'm getting there."
Harcourt, diagnosed with secondary progressive MS seven years ago, travelled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in September to undergo what's now referred to as "Liberation treatment" for her MS.
Harcourt and many others who have MS were given hope last year when an Italian doctor named Dr. Paulo Zamboni came up with a new theory and treatment for what he calls Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI).
Zamboni's theory is that in people with CCSVI, the venous system is not able to efficiently remove blood from the central nervous system, due to the narrowing of small venous structures in the neck, chest and spine. It is believed to cause build ups of iron in the brain eventually leading to lesions and the development of MS symptoms.
The answer to this issue, then, is to develop substitute circles of venous blood vessels in an attempt to help drainage from the central nervous system.
Zamboni's suggested method to combat CCSVI is to perform an angioplasty, a surgery to improve blood flow in narrow or obstructed vessels. It's not a cure for MS, but has shown, in some people, to relieve some symptoms.
Controversy still surrounds this treatment, due to an inconsistency of results. But MS sufferers the world over are seeking it.
CCSVI treatment has yet to be approved in Canada, which is why many people, including others from the Humboldt area, have gone out of the country to get it done.
After family members and the community raised $14,000 to pay for Harcourt's treatment, she chose to travel to Mexico to get it done.
Harcourt now hopes to get "September 24, 2010" tattooed on her body somewhere.
"Because that's my birthday now," she smiled.
On that day, she got the Liberation treatment, went off all the medications she was on for MS and quit smoking.
The difference made by the surgery, she feels, was instant.
"It was almost shocking," she said.
She has no stitches, no scars from the procedure, she noted, but veins on either side of her neck were opened. They weren't completely blocked, she said, but a neurologist she saw before the procedure told her she'd likely suffered from MS symptoms for years before her diagnosis.
Before the surgery, Harcourt saw an ear, nose and throat specialist, got an MRI and met with a neurologist. In less than eight hours, everything, including the surgery, was done, she said, and she was back at a hotel to recuperate. She even got to take home her test results and MRI scans.
Though she slept through the surgery, when she woke up, she was sturdy enough to walk, she said.
Three weeks later, she was still amazed at the difference in her health.
"It feels like I graduated high school and I'm starting over again," she said.
As the weeks have gone by, her health has only improved, she said, and her muscles are steadily getting stronger.
How has her life changed?
She was once confined to her home because of her symptoms and the fatigue that went along with them.
Now, "I get out and do things," she smiled. "I go for coffee, I go for lunch... (things) that I was never able to."
Her memory, both long and short term, is better, she believes.
"I know what I'm talking about.... I have my memories back," she said.
Her speech has also improved, she said, because she is no longer searching for words or losing her train of thought. Her writing is also better, and instead of sleeping 12 hours at night and napping during the day, she goes to bed at 11 p.m., and is up at 6 a.m. for the day.
"My friends have been shocked by how I've improved," she grinned.
Of course, there are some drawbacks, she joked.
Before, her toes were quite numb.
"Now, when I stub my toe, it frickin' hurts," she laughed. "Things like that have really changed for me."
Her muscles are slowly getting stronger, she noted, and she's feeling good.
"I'm building slowly," she noted.
Though she is in a little pain from time to time, for which she takes Tylenol, the changes have exceeded her expectations in a way, she noted.
"What I wanted was to be able to stand up when showering and get coffee," she said. Not only can she do those things, she can do other little things she couldn't do before, like make popcorn.
"I'm dreaming bigger in some ways," she said. "I'm not planning what I want to be when I grow up, but I can't wait for a day when I can make a meal... I'll take what I can get."
If things continue to go well, she said, she'll start to think about the bigger things, like where she might like to work - something she hasn't been able to do for years because of her deteriorating health.
If the surgery eventually fails, that's fine, she admitted.
"I've had three weeks of great life."
And, she added, she knows that surgery will now help her.
"I believe in Canada, (Liberation treatment) will be happening in the next 10 years. I know I can get it done again and not have to pay."
Though it's good news that Saskatchewan has offered $5 million to conduct clinical trials on this treatment, Harcourt feels it will take too long to get the surgery here for some who really need it.
"What about people in wheelchairs who are really handicapped and have no money to go anywhere? They have to sit and wait another 10 years? It's so depressing. Why not just give us the option?" Harcourt noted.
Harcourt has indicated that she would love to help people with MS with any questions about the surgery prepare for it.
She would go for the surgery again in a heartbeat.
"I got a new lease on life in Mexico," she smiled.