Karen Olivero's family & friends are teaming up to raise money to help with her fight with MSA (multiple systems atrophy). Join the fight!
Karen has always been one of the strongest people I will ever know. Everyone who knows her respects and admires her strength and positive mental attitude that she has had through all her challenges with breast cancer and then thyroid cancer. Always an independent, active person, she is also a loving mother to two children, and has a grandchild whom she adores. She is now having to fight her way with Multiple System Atrophy, a neuro-degenerative brain disease similar to Parkinson's, though much more aggressive.
Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA) is a rare (approx 12,000 people in the US may have MSA), neurological degenerative disease that is initially often mistaken for Parkinsons(PD) because symptoms can be similar. However, MSA is significantly more aggressive and progressive than PD. The predominate symptoms that Karen has experienced are; rigidity and slow movement, severe balance issues causing frequent falls, dizziness, and atrophy of the muscles needed to swallow, cough and breathe. She also suffers with severe muscle pain and spasms.
Karen was originally diagnosed with PD in 2009. This would be devastating to anyone, but it’s not the first time she has been handed bad medical news. She also beat breast cancer in 2001, and then thyroid cancer in 2007. This might be ironic to some, considering she spent her 30 year career saving lives as an emergency room and ICU nurse. It was while she was working in these rolls that she was handed the news of her disease, and subsequently had to give up her career.
We initially believed she had an extreme case of Parkinson's; just three years after her diagnosis, Karen had lost more than 30 pounds, was experiencing extreme dizziness, and had lost her ability to swallow.
She checked into the ER in July and was admitted to the ICU, and was now on the other side of healthcare. They inserted a feeding tube in her stomach, performed a tracheostomy (a tube is inserted into the throat), and was put on a ventilator to help her breathe.
She has had to fight every day to increase her strength since then, and through her hard work, Karen was able to wean off the ventilator, but continues to be fed via a feeding tube, uses her tracheostomy to assist in her breathing, and gets nightly breathing treatments.
In typical form, the day after she was admitted to rehab, Karen began initiating personal goals with both her physical therapist & occupational therapist. After almost 5 months and 3 different hospitals, she has just been given the news that she will be released to go home just in time for the holidays. She wants, more than anything, to be able to enjoy life as much as possible and sustain some form of independence.
Karen keeps a journal of her thoughts, and I found this statement of hers to be inspiring and emotional:
"I thought I always had a blessed life...I thought I was doing everything right- working hard, saving my money, had a life plan. But everything changed when I was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's Disease in 2009. It's not your normal, everyday PD, but a rare variant that progresses faster- Multisystem Atrophy...A disease I had never heard of in my 30 years of nursing; A career I loved, but was cut short in 2009. So now it is 2013- only 4 years since the diagnosis, and I've already lost so much function that its difficult to anticipate what's in store for the coming year. I never thought in a million years that I wouldn't be spending my 50's hiking mountains and traveling faraway places, playing with my grandson. Instead, I am bound to a wheelchair or walker I can't take care of my grandson or spend any quality time with him. Still, in this struggle, I have come to know some very special people who have shared their hearts and their time to help me. It's because of these people that I still feel blessed in life and I am able return to my home."
Money raised will be used to pay bills that have accumulated due to her illness and expenses to be incurred when she comes home, including home healthcare, medical supplies, and home modifications that will help her get around the house. No amount is too little, and any contribution is greatly appreciated!