How Transverse Myelitis Impacted my Wife and Family

By Roderick Corpuz

It was the day after Mother’s Day. On that Monday morning, my wife Erin was experiencing numbness in her limbs, and she knew immediately something was wrong. We rushed to the hospital. She was unable to walk on her own. The doctors and the nurses in the emergency room (ER) did not know what was wrong with her. Unable to explain what the issue was, she was prescribed pain medication and discharged.

At that point, we did not know what to do next. We thought we were doing the right thing by going straight to the ER where they would have answers. We left with more questions, and my wife had more problems. She had to stay in our guest room, because she was unable to move on her own. Her loss of sensation had increased. She had lost control of her bladder and bowels. We had reached out to get another opinion, but we couldn’t get a neurology appointment until later in the week. Those next few days were terrifying because Erin’s condition wasn’t getting any better, and I was not prepared to take care of my wife in the condition she was in.

By the time we got to the neurologist (at another hospital), they immediately said that based on her condition, there’s a high likelihood that she would get sent to the emergency room again, AND that she would get admitted. They asked if we would still like to meet with the neurologist, and we absolutely did since we wanted to get answers. Within 15 mins of review, the neurologist mentioned the term transverse myelitis (TM), which we never heard of. They suspected that was the case, but would need to do further MRIs to confirm.

Later that afternoon, Erin’s diagnosis of TM was confirmed, and they started treating her symptoms once she was admitted. She was hospitalized for nearly a month, where she received medication and physical therapy to improve her condition. By early June, she had improved enough to be discharged, but with a long road to recovery ahead.

TM completely changed Erin’s life and our family’s life. Erin was an active yogi, recently certified as a yoga instructor, and ran her own nutritional business on the side. We have 3 children, Janie, Gwen, & Travis that she was a proud mother to. After her diagnosis, it hindered her ability to do any of those things. It could have crushed her spirits and discouraged her from getting better. However, that was not the case.

She was incredibly positive over the course of the last few months. Her mentality has been, she could have been much worse off if she wasn’t so focused on her health and fitness. Her yoga training and work habits gave her the proper tools to have the right mindset in her road to recovery. She has made significant progress, but understands there is so much work left to be done.

As she recovered, I took on more roles and responsibilities to manage our family and household, while I continued to work my regular job. Knowing the amount of stress that could add, she encouraged me to continue with my triathlon training. While races over the last year were non-existent, I was training, but with no short-term goal in sight. Inadvertently, triathlon training had prepared me physically and mentally for the stresses that were placed on our family. But most importantly, it was a source of stress relief and was how I focused on my own self-care so that I could take care of my family.

Which leads me to where I am now. The last few months have been a complete roller coaster. My wife has been a fighter, and has been an inspiration through it all with her attitude and positivity. We didn’t know where to turn to find more information outside of the hospital, until she found the Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association (SRNA). SRNA has been Erin’s main resource for information to find out more about TM. It’s been a great connection to the community who have also experienced TM and similar conditions. For that reason, we are very thankful that SRNA exists. That motivated me to partner with SRNA and fundraise for them leading up to my participation in Ironman Atlantic City 70.3 on September 12th.

There is so much we don’t know about TM. We still cannot get past the fact that Erin was discharged from an emergency room, unable to walk, and this diagnosis was nowhere on their radar. Perhaps the situation would have been different if there was more information and knowledge about this condition. I would not want anyone to go through what Erin had to go through. My goal is to raise awareness about TM and other conditions like it, and contribute to SRNA’s efforts.

Thank you to SRNA for all the support you have given us, and the continued support ahead. I’m looking forward to raising money for such a great cause, and hoping we can do great things together!