Sharyn and Jim are an incredible husband and wife team who have wowed our therapy team with their determination, commitment, and attitude. Sharyn’s rehab journey has been incredibly challenging with many hurdles along the way. Her recovery has been very slow, as these things can be, but they have never given up. This story shows us that if you have the right support around you, you can achieve and evolve in very difficult circumstances.
It started with a fall
Sharyn: Hi my name is Sharyn, I was diagnosed with MS in 2014 my symptoms were numbness of the legs and unbalanced in walking. We went to ARC for a 6 week group therapy program and had a break during which my medications were stopped by my first neurologist. My MS declined and I had a fall through being unbalanced. I injured my miniscus in my right knee which landed me in hospital. I was told to immobilize after getting home within three months not only did I have MS, I also had contracture to both legs which made it impossible to walk at all. We found ourselves back at ARC not knowing what to do.
Fortunately, our therapy team started working again with Sharyn in February 2018, however unfortunately, Sharyn presented with a devastating reduction in her mobility and functionality. Sharyn was fully chair bound, relying on maximal assistance of her husband for all transfers. Jim was lifting Sharyn single handedly and as a result of Sharyns dependence on him, Jim was forced to quit work.
With a spell of therapy at home, Sharyn and Jim were able to master using a slide board which reduced the physical strain on Jim. However, it wasn’t enough to get Sharyn to where she wanted to be and reach her potential.
During this time, we were all working away in the background to have Sharyn’s funding and supports reviewed by the NDIS. She had significant equipment and rehabilitation needs due to her change in function and thankfully Sharyn was able to secure more supports to get her where she is today. We were now supported by funding and it was time to hit this hard!
As a team, we all felt that Sharyn needed to come to ARC to access the equipment needed to get her on her feet. ARC clinic physiotherapist Anna Wallwork examined her impairments closely. Sharyn had developed severe spasticity in her hamstrings, therefore meaning she was unable to bear any weight through her legs at all. Sharyn was unable to gain full range of movement at her hips and knees, concerning Anna that they may be some contracture development. Because of her inability to weight bear effectively, even using rehab equipment like the theratrainer, Anna contacted her GP to make an urgent request for her to see a Neurologist to explore aggressive and targeted spasticity management.
Over the next three months Sharyn received two courses of botulinum toxin injections, the first of which being incredibly effective. Anna measured her spasticity before and after every course of injections, making sure that the effect was documented. She continues to have botulinum toxin injections every three months up until this day.
The muscle relaxants were working well, and Jim, Sharyn and Anna were totally dedicated in improving Sharyn’s situation. Sharyn was following an aggressive program of stretching, standing and transfer practice. Anna successfully got funding from the NDIS for a standing frame, so Sharyn could practice this daily, instead of just when she came to ARC. She needed significant strength work on her quads and glutes, which had not been active for a very long time due to her immobility and leg positioning caused by her spasticity. Guided by Anna, most of the hard work was done by unbeatable team of Sharyn and Jim at home through their home exercise program.
Sharyn: My motivation for all this was to be able to walk again – no matter how good or not so good it may be – and not to end up bed ridden. A big part of my success is my husband (Jim), my physiotherapists (Anna and Amali) and my EP (Lisa). It is a hard and slow journey but a journey I must take as far as I can to be as independent as possible. I DIDN’T WANT MS TO WIN. I MUST KEEP MOVING.
It was about 10 months later when ARC physio Amali took over Sharyn’s rehabilitation. From the start, Amali was so impressed at how Sharyn made sure she made the most out of each Botulinum Toxin injection and with the increasing joint range and normalisation of muscle tone, came strength in the opposing muscle groups.
As the muscle strength began to increase, Sharyn started to spend longer durations standing with easing supports. The theratrainer allowed Amali to reduce the external stabilization , therefore placing a demand on Sharyns anti gravity strength and balance mechanisms.
As soon as Sharyn was able to stand in the parallel bars, she started working on stepping practise to get her back walking and continued to reduce the supports required for walking. She went from initially needing a forearm support frame progressing on to a 2 wheel walking frame then a pair of crutches.
It hasn’t been easy.
Both Jim and Sharyn dedicated all their time, determination and energy to get to where they are now. Fatigue and heat sensitivity has limited Sharyn’s capacity for exercise at times, but she has learnt ways to manage these. In fact, her current fatigue measurements are better than what was reported even prior to her fall!
ARC EP Lisa Meng works with Sharyn and Jim at their home to monitor and progress a home exercise program. Jim completes exercises with Sharyn everyday for approx. 2 hrs and Lisa is often asking them to cut back!
Sharyn is now mobile at home using her crutches and uses a wheelchair outdoors. She is able to climb 16 steps with a rail and stand by assistance only. Jim once said “I used to help Sharyn get to where she wants to be and I know that when I come back she’ll be right where I left her. Now, Sharyn pops up everywhere around the house!”.
Sharyn’s son recently moved out, and, recently, she was able to walk into his house independently with her frame. One of her next goals is to access her swimming pool safely…and she has plenty of others!