POSITIVE APPROACH: Biff Gaia (left) of Lismore shares her story and hope to be part of the trial in the major breakthrough in the treatment of progressive multiple sclerosis. She is pictured with friend and carer Nicola Jayne.
POSITIVE APPROACH: Biff Gaia (left) of Lismore shares her story and hope to be part of the trial in the major breakthrough in the treatment of progressive multiple sclerosis. She is pictured with friend and carer Nicola Jayne. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

New treatment offers hope for multiple sclerosis sufferer

IT TOOK 10 years for East Lismore resident Biff Gaia to be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

But the symptoms had likely begun many years earlier.

"I went down to Sydney in 1994. I had driven from here to Sydney and I had been down there for four to five days and I was speaking to a doctor and I asked 'what on earth is the matter? I just can't get myself over the feeling of being extremely tired and all I want to do is sleep'," she said.

The doctor recommended Ms Gaia see a neurologist who told her she had three of the four types of auto-immune diseases.

"They told me that they would slowly burn out and I would be left with one," she said.

The final diagnosis was made in 2009.

Ms Gaia's carer, Nicola Jayne, said MS was difficult to diagnose because there were so many diseases that mimicked it, all of which had to be excluded before MS could be diagnosed.

She said the final diagnosis was usually based on an extensive history and an MRI of the spine and the brain.

Now Ms Gaia faces a daily raft of debilitating symptoms from the disease.

"I can't make any plans," she said.

"Even for the day or for the morning because all of a sudden I may be so tired I've got no option but to go to bed."

But thanks to a recent breakthrough in research, Ms Gaia said there was light at the end of the tunnel.

"I like this (treatment) because they're using their (the patients') own T cells and putting them back and it's not synthetic and it's not from elsewhere so the likelihood of your rejection is going to be far less."

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system where a healthy body's immune system attacks the body's own myelin (a nerve insulator) causing disruption to nerve transmission. The cause of MS is still not known and there is no cure.

Symptoms:

  • Numbness and "pins and needles"
  • Muscle weakness
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Balance and co-ordination problems
  • Bladder and bowl disturbances
  • Cognitive changes
  • Visual disturbances

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