Veronica Herrera Vega

Diagnosis: Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

Valledupar, Colombia

I title my story See Light in the Dark because at the time of my acute event, I always told myself those words.

I am 30 years old, I live in a small city in Colombia called Valledupar, and almost three years ago I was paralyzed in only four days. Without exaggerating, I could only move my head. The experience was terrifying.

It all started on September 26, 2016 with a severe headache. Then, I began to feel a tingling in my left arm that did not stop. I fell asleep that night believing that the next day everything would be fine, but when I tried to get out of bed I could not move my right leg. Entering the emergency room in a wheelchair was devastating. Immediately, I was hospitalized and everything was uncertain. They moved me to the capital, Bogotá. The doctors initially thought it was cerebral ischemia, migraine, or stress, but my body continued to paralyze progressively and I began feeling a lot of strange symptoms (tight band on torso and not being able to perceive postural changes). After magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ten exams, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. However, by that time, I could not move anymore. I had fourteen doses of interferon beta-1b, when an angel appeared in my life, a doctor who without a doubt said “that is not multiple sclerosis.” Imaging and an anti-aquaporin-4 antibody test were performed again. Even though the latter came out negative, my doctor diagnosed me with seronegative neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD). Everything happened in a month and a half after the initial symptoms.

At that time, I just clung to God and hoped that the nightmare would end. Fortunately, I counted on my family. By the grace of God I walked again two months after the attack and resumed my life. I am a miracle of God. I had sensory and urinary sequelae (overactive bladder). Today I have pains in the neck and joints of the hands and paresthesias in the extremities, but I am alive and today, I can tell my testimony. Three neurologists said that my diagnosis was multiple sclerosis. In fact, I started the days following the attack with interferon; however, I began to suffer from strange paralysis that made me writhe and stop my breathing for forty seconds. I almost did not get out of the last crisis. I was terrified to think that for a month I had the wrong diagnosis.

Fortunately, today I am stable with Rituximab. It’s been three years since that episode, and I’m still fine (no relapses). I do not know how long God will give me life, but I hope it will be for many more years. I have hope in new treatments for NMOSD. I have hope in God, and I know that this generation will see a cure for this devastating autoimmune disease.

Veronica Herrera Vega