Patient Spotlight: Getting to the Bottom of MRI Results While Living With Multiple Sclerosis

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Ever since Brooke was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) seven years ago, she and her husband Dave have been on a rollercoaster together. Medical imaging became a routine part of their lives and after undergoing stem cell therapy for her MS, nothing could prepare them for what came next.

It’s hard to understand how frustrating the healthcare system can be until you’re sitting in front of a doctor who has just given you some very bad news. 

My wife, Brooke, and I were in our neurologist’s office in 2018 when our lives were turned upside down. The doctor had pulled up Brooke’s latest MRI scan and was calmly pointing out a new lesion on her brain — a telltale sign that the aggressive form of multiple sclerosis that had taken a wrecking ball to our lives a few years earlier had returned.

Brooke described it as the doctor “dropping a bomb on us” – it was a devastating day, but what she was saying just didn’t make sense.

The reason the revelation was so stunning was because Brooke was fortunate enough to receive a stem-cell transplant in 2015, just six months after we learned she had MS. Medical imaging became a big part of our lives that year and it was Brooke’s first MRI scan that led to the diagnosis that had long-eluded doctors. 

But this was back before we had quick online access to our results with PocketHealth. Instead, we were forced to wait weeks, if not months, to receive the news under the cold glare of fluorescent lights. 

Stopping MS in its tracks

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease that is notoriously difficult to diagnose. It occurs when the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks the nerve endings in the brain and spinal cord. As these nerves are damaged, signals from the brain are interrupted, resulting in symptoms that can vary wildly from patient to patient.

At the time of the stem cell trial, my wife was losing the ability to walk and had been forced to buy a (very stylish) cane at the age of 30 after falling head first down our front steps and breaking her collarbone. Without the procedure, a wheelchair would not be far behind.

Brooke finds relief with stem cell therapy for MS

The grueling experience involved harvesting Brooke’s own healthy stem cells before subjecting her to a week and a half of chemotherapy to completely wipe out her faulty immune system. Once that was done, doctors returned her young, healthy stem cells, which slowly rebuilt her immune system with no memory of the disease. 

The procedure was a smashing success and within weeks Brooke no longer needed the cane that had become a silent symbol of our struggles. She still needed to get an MRI every year, however, which doctors compared to the one taken the year before to ensure there were no new signs of the disease on her brain or spine.

As the months gave way to years and each annual trek to the neurologist’s office revealed no new MS activity, it began to feel like the worst might actually be behind us. Until that day in 2018.

Keeping calm while waiting on MRI results

As soon as we got home from receiving the bad news, Brooke contacted the doctors who had performed her stem-cell trial. They were as stunned as we were — none of their previous patients had shown any new signs of the disease — and our neurologist had not even contacted them before telling us Brooke’s MS had returned.

They told us to remain calm until they were able to see the MRI results for themselves. If we had access to PocketHealth back then, this process would have been instantaneous. Instead, this meant making a trip to a Toronto hospital to pick up — and purchase — the images on a CD and mail them to Ottawa. After an agonizingly long week, we learned the “new” lesion our neurologist pointed to was not new at all and certainly not cause for concern. It was a minor, benign spot on her brain that looked more pronounced on the different, more modern MRI machine used for the latest scan. 

The relief was indescribable. So, too, was the frustration over an incident that should never have occurred.

A better patient experience with PocketHealth

One year later, with that painful experience still fresh in our minds, my wife spotted a poster in a Toronto hospital that led her to PocketHealth, a site that lets us view and share all of Brooke’s medical imaging with all of her doctors, wherever they are. We haven’t looked back. 

With her annual MRI scans and reports now available almost immediately, we’re spared the agony that often accompanies the unknown. “Easier access to those results back then would have been the difference between a bad day and a traumatic week,” said Brooke, who is now over five years disease-free. “I hope we never have to go through anything like that again. No one else should either.”

We’re so happy that the news for Dave and Brooke was positive and that with PocketHealth, they won’t have to go through another drawn out ordeal again when sharing or accessing their medical imaging!

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