Benefit set for Saturday for Plainfield native battling MS
BY JAIME ANGIO Correspondent June 14, 2013 10:22PM
Carla Vocaty was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis less than a year ago. | Jaime Angio~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2013 6:31AM
Receiving the news that you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can turn your world upside down.
There can be a long road ahead that includes relapses, loss of motor skills, a loss of independence and an overall uncertain future.
In Carla Vocaty’s, she has lesions — damaged tissue — on her spine and brain. Just knowing they are there weighs heavily on the 32-year-old Plainfield native, as does the costs she faces in out-of-pocket expenses for lifelong treatment.
Vocaty was diagnosed with MS just about 10 months ago.
“It started out in September of 2012. I went to a girlfriend’s wedding, woke up that Sunday, and I thought I just tweaked my back,” Vocaty said. “My legs were getting tingly, then by Tuesday it had elevated up to my chest area.”
The feeling didn’t make Carla, a property manager, think she needed to see a doctor. But by that Friday, her motor skills and hands were being affected.
“I couldn’t write, I couldn’t pick up anything, I couldn’t hold anything,” Vocaty said. “I couldn’t zip my own pants, open doors, so then I went to the Quick Care.”
After a round of bloodwork and an MRI on her back, doctors determined she has stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) and bulging discs.
Vocaty went to a neurologist who sent her for more tests and another MRI. The results were faxed to her doctor within hours and Vocaty received a call that no one is prepared for.
“I was trying to drive to work and it was still difficult, and my doctor tells me I have MS,” she said. “I was like, ‘What? What does that mean?’
“At that point I just broke down, pulled over and I called my boss and my parents and they came and picked me up from the side of the road.”
Within weeks, Vocaty, a 1999 Plainfield High School graduate, began a five-day treatment that included 1,000 milligrams of steroid per day administered intravenously. She experienced numbness up to the waist and didn’t regain her motor skills for nearly two months.
“I first initially said, because I’m divorced and I have no kids, that ‘This is it,’ ” she said. “ ‘I’m going to be in a wheelchair and that’s it,’ because I didn’t have the education behind it. And I thought, ‘I’m going to be disabled.’ I went through a lot of depression. There were times I couldn’t look ahead.”
According to National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is a disease that involves an immune system attack against the central nervous system. MS affects 2.1 million people worldwide, most of whom are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it.
Looking ahead is difficult because relapses are always a possibility, in addition to the continuing difficulties Vocaty faces on a daily basis. She experienced her second relapse just after Christmas, and with that came more steroids and more medications.
Vocaty has Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays marked on her calender. Those are the days when she must give herself injections that she will have to get for the rest of her life. And as with many medications, there are side effects.
“To this day, the only real side effects I have are because of the medication,” she said.
But after a test Thursday, her doctor said her scans had improved, which means the medication is helping.
“(I’m) so elated right now,” she said. “Prayers have been answered.”
Vocaty’s close friends are helping her answer another challenge — the costs associated with her battle. A “Concert for Carla” fundraiser is scheduled for a noon start June 15 at the Northwest Recreation Club, 1265 Cora St., Joliet.
There will be live bands such as The Prairie Ghosts, Thanks For The Falcon, and Deanna Wisniewski playing throughout the day. Vendors will be selling merchandise, and there will be silent auctions, raffle prizes and split the pot. Tickets are $25, which includes beer, food and pop.
Donations also can be made by visting www.gofundme.com/2shvv4.
“My friends are wonderful,” Vocaty said. “Basically, a lot of people have donated their time that don’t even know me, which makes you realize how generous people are when they are willing to do things.”
Vocaty said looking at the long road of living with MS, it’s all about acceptance.
“When I first got diagnosed, I was very worried how people were going to look at me, that I was broken, that I have this disease,” she said. “Today now, I’m in a little different place. I don’t care who knows; it is what it is. I can’t change it. I can’t get rid of it. You’re either going to accept it or not.
“I don’t know what my future holds. Today, I’m looking forward.”