It’s a terrifying thought: going blind in one eye at the age of 24, and being diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis).
But a now 27-year-old Kaitlyn Sapier found a novel way to do her part to help find a cure - jumping out of a plane naked!
More than 25,000 Australians are currently living with the disease, including Kaitlyn, who is from Brisbane. She is determined for an MS cure to be found within her lifetime.
“In 2018 I went blind in my right eye for 7 days and later I had skin numbness and pins and needles across my whole body for 8 weeks,” Kaitlyn tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Doctors were baffled but did not believe it was serious enough to investigate. I pushed to see a specialist/neurologist to get a more concrete diagnosis and asked, 'What’s the worst-case scenario?'. He said, 'Multiple sclerosis, but I highly doubt it'.
Sadly, Kaitlyn was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in 2018, at the age of 24.
“I was told I needed to get on treatment within 12 months or I would be in a wheelchair. The treatment I needed would cost a quarter of a million dollars if it weren’t for the PBS (pharmaceutical benefits scheme), which allowed me to get my treatment for $40 a pack instead of $10,000.”
Kaitlyn met the Prime Minister shortly after her treatment was listed on the PBS, and she became a bit of an MS celebrity.
Raw Reality of living with MS
Kaitlyn says her experience with MS left her fatigued, sensitive to heat and struggling with balance issues and being immunocompromised, along with temporarily losing partial vision and experiencing skin numbness.
“I still get tingling issues if I walk too long and pass out if I overheat, so I have bought an ice vest to manage that in the Brisbane sun,” she tells us.
“I run a few businesses and have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and over time the fatigue has impacted my ability to do that more and more, so I just manage the best I can, but I am so keen for a cure.”
Fundraising Efforts Reach New Heights
In 2020, Kaitlyn was determined to raise awareness for MS, a disease she previously barely knew anything about.
Unlike others who may choose to complete a walkathon or bike ride, Kaitlyn wanted to make a splash and decided she would jump out of a plane completely naked with 22 of her friends!
Kaitlyn and her partner Ryan raised an astounding $20,000 for MS research and are now planning their next jump, which will hopefully take place in the US in 2022.
“My partner and I wanted to somehow get on national radio and television to spread awareness of MS symptoms and early treatment, as we know how critical early treatment and diagnosis is for a good prognosis and how confusing and misleading symptoms can be.
We figured getting naked and beating a world record was the best way to achieve that. And we were right!”
What To Do If You Suspect You May Have MS
If you suspect something isn’t right with your health, Kaitlyn says early diagnosis and treatment is key.
“If you have any mobility, vision or sensation issues out of the ordinary, consult your doctor or contact a Multiple Sclerosis organisation,” she advises.
Kaitlyn’s loss of sight was not the first time she knew something wasn’t quite right.
After experiencing strange health symptoms for almost a year, she was continually ignored by doctors.
Her persistence paid off resulting in her accessing treatment at a much earlier stage, which slowed down the speed of her MS progressing.
Doctors have since advised Kaitlyn that if she had received her diagnosis just 12 months later, she would now be in a wheelchair.
“This disease affects predominantly young women between ages 20-30, contrary to popular belief. Don’t dismiss weird symptoms,” warns Kaitlyn. “You know your body, so push to get to the bottom of it.”
How You Can Help
As a result of early diagnosis and treatment, Kaitlyn says she is now in remission and getting the most out of daily life, and wants the same outcome for others.
“While MS is a debilitating condition, some acclaimed neurologists believe that we are within eight years of a cure, based on current scientific progress.
“I’m not sure how true this is, but if it is, we need to raise as many funds as possible to drive us to that cure, and MS Australia is the best charity organisation to support in that mission.”
The Stats of MS and Research
Currently there is no cure for MS, which affects 25,600 people in Australia. There is no cure or treatment for primary progressive MS, which can lead to severe disability.
Often diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40, it affects three times more women than men.
The largest research push in MS Australia’s 50-year history has begun–focussed on uncovering the holy grail of Multiple Sclerosis, new treatments to repair nerve damage in people with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS)
This extremely urgent bid will charge local Researchers, recognised globally for their astounding MS work, to focus intently on this critical untouched area and supercharge the next major leap in improving the lives of Australians living with the more aggressive form of MS
The $6.9 million MS Australia research commitment powers specific remyelination/nerve repair/recovery projects.
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