It's a disease that is becoming more and more common in the United States, Multiple Sclerosis. While there is no cure patients in Aberdeen now have access to state of the art technology that can better identify and treat their condition.
For 17 years Pat Carson has been living with Multiple Sclerosis.
"It's just a limiting thing I don't have any pain or anything like that but the length of time that I can stand or the distances that I can walk." Said Carson.
Everything we do, whether it's taking a step or simply breathing requires the proper brain function. For someone with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) the layer of protection surrounding the nerves is inflamed which can make simple functions extremely difficult.
"It's kind of like the insulation on a power cord as you lose the insulation things just aren't conducted as effectively so people start to notice that their sensation or things that they're trying to do with their muscles aren't working quite the same because of that loss of the sheath that protects those nerves." Said Dr. Daniel Fritz, a radiologist at Avera St. Luke's.
Doctors still don't know what exactly causes MS and there is no known cure. To treat the disease doctors need to know what areas of the brain are affected, which means annual MRI screenings for patients like Pat.
"The MRI lets us see if things are staying about the same or are they really starting to progress and it can also give us an idea of which of these lesions are actively causing problems and that can help them decide whether or not they want to get more aggressive with the treatments." Said Dr. Fritz.
MRI scans are essential for treatment but they can also be unsettling for patients.
"Initially I didn't really have claustrophobia, it was an uncomfortable feeling but it wasn't terrible." Said Carson.
Pat was never afraid of the cramped MRI tube but eventually her body developed spasms from having to lie still for the 45 minute sessions.
"Every time I would twitch they have to repeat the imaging but that would take longer the last time I had an MRI it was almost an hour and a half inside and so I'd been really dreading having another one."
But that was until Avera St. Luke's got the state of the art 3 Tesla Magnet MRI. Now pat can relax while doctors work to correct her disease.
"It has a better image and it's faster and it's more open and they took me to look at it and immediately when I saw it I knew that it would be a lot easier to lay there and get the procedure done." Said Carson.
"In the past it used to be that if you had a scanner that had a bigger size and was more comfortable for the patient often times the image quality suffered but with our scanner today we are having a better scanner and a better scan experience for our patients and we have the best quality images that are available right now so we're really fortunate to have this machine." Said Dr. Fritz.
To get this before, Pat would have to travel to Sioux Falls, a car trip that would only aggravate her condition. Instead, she can stay here in Aberdeen and focus all her energy on staying healthy.
"I try to keep active because I found that's very helpful as far as staying on your feet and even continuing to work is a good thing too because it gives you a reason to get up every morning." Said Carson.
While it may just be a walk down the hall, for Pat, these are several little footsteps that are keeping her ahead of her MS.
Multiple Sclerosis already affects more than an estimated 400,000 Americans. While it can be diagnosed at any age, the early it's detected the more treatment options are available. For more information about MS just call 877-AT-AVERA.