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Your Healthy Family: Springs woman improving in fight with debilitating neuromuscular disease

Posted at 3:29 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 17:29:19-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — There's a new medical space in Colorado Springs that was gifted to UCHealth Memorial by an anonymous donor that is vastly improving the quality of life of patients by making critical treatments available locally, saving them the trip to Denver.

It’s an Apheresis Suite, and is located in the new infusion center at UCHealth Memorial North Hospital in Colorado Springs. Apheresis is basically a process of collecting someone’s blood, separating it into it’s base components, and then removing parts of the blood that may contain disease, or disease-provoking elements and then replacing it.

Donna Bryant and her wife Kristen Miller live in Falcon. Both are combat veterans from Desert Storm, and each deals with health problems.

Donna says they look out for each other, “We're like a tag team wrestling team. One of us goes in, until we're beat up and bloody and then call into the corner and tag the other one for help.”

Kristen battles multiple sclerosis, and usually needs transfusions twice a year. Donna’s health challenges are more rare, and debilitating.

Dr. Andrea Manhart, is a neurologist and the Medical Director of Apheresis and Outpatient Infusion with UCHealth Memorial. Dr. Manhart explains, “Donna is a patient of mine that has myasthenia gravis. It’s a neuromuscular junction condition where antibodies can attack the neuromuscular junction. Patients can have respiratory weakness, drooping of their eyelids, generalized weakness, and trouble swallowing.”

Other symptoms can be, slurred speech and overpowering fatigue that can easily lead people to the wrong conclusion, as to what myasthenia gravis patients are actually dealing with.

Donna explains when she was first diagnosed and would be in crisis, “It was very awkward and unusual. I would get fatigued in the most unusual ways. My coworkers and everyone thought I was drinking, or using drugs, because your eyes droop, your speech slurs, there's many of the symptoms that mimic alcohol abuse and things like that.”

In our next story we'll talk more about the apheresis treatment Donna now has at Memorial North, how exactly her plasma exchange apheresis treatment works, and how having this specialized treatment so close to home has improved her quality of life, and her wife’s in so many ways.

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