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Learning to live with multiple sclerosis

Published: March 16, 2017
Emily Hosier, medical technologist at UF Health Jacksonville, enjoys working behind the scenes in the lab to help patients receive their diagnosis quickly to ease concerns. View Larger Image

Thirty-six-year-old Emily Hosier didn’t think much of it when colors seemed dull one day in 2009. She was already fighting a cold and chalked it up to simply not feeling well. But a few weeks later, everything changed.

Hosier experienced numbness in her left leg; and although it went away relatively quickly, these two incidents are what prompted the physicians with the Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Program at the UF Health Neuroscience Institute to order an MRI of her brain.

Hosier, a medical technologist at UF Health Jacksonville, knew something was wrong. And for her, the worst part was not knowing the cause. Hosier’s background in medicine and some extensive internet searching made her confident that the physician would confirm a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis — an autoimmune illness that affects the central nervous system. While most people would find this news daunting, Hosier was eager to learn of her disease and start fighting it the best she could.

“Finding out was kind of a relief,” she said. “One of the most stressful parts coming into that appointment was not knowing what it was. Clearly there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know what.”

When the physician told Hosier she did in fact have MS, she felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from her chest. But one week later a new and terrifying symptom surfaced: double vision.

“I saw two of everything,” Hosier said. “When you’re sitting in the car and going to the doctor’s office seeing six lanes instead of three, it really is disturbing.”

It took a year before Hosier’s double vision cleared up, and during that time she experienced a variety of symptoms, including numbness and tingling on the left side of her body, itching that didn’t subside when scratched, weakness in her left leg and bladder issues. In 2010, Hosier began treatment with Scott Silliman, MD, a neurologist who specializes in multiple sclerosis diagnosis and management at the UF Health Neuroscience Institute – Jacksonville.

“Emily is very informed about her disease,” Silliman said. “She is a role model for every patient because she has top-notch knowledge about therapies and her disease.”

After trying three different medications, Silliman suggested that Hosier try Lemtrada, which is the first medication for relapsing MS that is administered in eight doses over two years through an IV.

“The therapy that Emily is on is a unique treatment,” said Adam Chaifetz, DC, program coordinator. “It’s the only treatment for MS that has a finite dosing schedule. All other drugs, patients are on them indefinitely unless there is a change.”

Hosier had her first round of treatment in November 2016 and hasn’t had any additional symptoms since. Chaifetz explained that Lemtrada is different from other treatments because it’s not a permanent, daily regimen — the patient receives five doses in their first year and three doses in the second year, and the treatment course is complete.

“That’s pretty groundbreaking,” Chaifetz said. “It’s not a cure, much like remission in cancer is not a cure, because we too see relapses all the time, but it’s possible that Emily may never need another treatment again in her life.”

Hosier is very impressed with the wealth of knowledge and the level of care she has experienced through the Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Program.

“You learn to appreciate the simple things,” she said. “When you know something is wrong with you and you’re scared, or even if you’ve been diagnosed and it’s a new symptom, it’s good to know that there are people to take care of you. If something were to come on suddenly, Dr. Silliman would find a way to see me immediately.”

Silliman is still following up with two patients that received Lemtrada eight years ago and have seen no activity since their last infusions. Hosier is hopeful that her treatment will prove to be as effective as it has for other patients in order to continue to live her life and succeed in a job she loves.

“Everyone has been wonderful,” Hosier said. “Everyone is on the ball, and the nurses in the infusion center are amazing. I’m incredibly proud to work for this organization.”

For more information about the Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Program at the UF Health Neuroscience Institute, call 904-244-0411 or visit UFHealthJax.org/neurology.


For more information, please contact:
UF Health Media Relations
904-244-3268