MANDEVILLE, La. (WGNO) - "I started having really weird symptoms, I was extremely tired, I started getting tingling and numbing sensations all over my body and so I went to see a couple different doctors and they ended up diagnosing me with MS about a month after that," says 27 year-old Leah Quartano.
She was in her Junior year at Auburn University when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, studying hospital administration, active in her sorority... It came as a giant blow to both her and her family.
"I'd heard of the disease before, but I really didn't know what it was. Essentially, your immune system attacks your body and causes lesions and wherever they present themselves can cause a host of different issues." She began treatment immediately, first interferon drugs, next Tysabri, but it was her third treatment nearly six years later that changed her life. Thanks to Dr. LaGanke in Alabama, Leah became one of the first six patients in the US to receive Lemtrada.
"There's always that looming risk that maybe this isn't going to work or maybe I'll relapse again or maybe something could happen but I'm not going to live in that space, I'm going to live in the space where this did work. I feel a way that I haven't felt in a really long time and I'm going to enjoy that right now,” says Quartano.
"I just can't put words for how thankful we are for this opportunity and for her to be one of the first six people in the country to get this medication it's almost like a miracle. How we found a doctor in Cullman, Alabama is in addition to the MS Society being instrumental felt like the hand of God,” says Leslie Quartano, Leah’s mother.
Leah now works in technology from home, her next Lemtrada infusion is next December and while MS has not defeated her, it has changed her, especially her perspective on the medical field.
"I want everyone to know that there are options with MS and that there are different treatments you can take there are doctors that you can see that are specialists in this field and that's fueled by the MS Society and research and there's changes being made in the medical field especially around this disease that make it possible for us to potentially eliminate it in the near future. Five years ago this wasn't available to me and now that it is it's going to change my life and that's pretty amazing to be a part of that."