2016 marked an unwelcome anniversary for 48-year-old Getu Abebe Degfie of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: it had been one decade since her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS), yet she still hadn’t obtained lasting treatment.
“I had been diagnosed 10 years ago in the USA. They treated me with Solu-Medrol, medicine to make me regenerate [muscle] and [be] able to walk,” Getu remembers, referencing a drug popular for short-term management of severe MS attacks. After finishing the five-day course of Solu-Medrol, she was indeed able to walk – but the drug’s effects are not permanent. Solu-Medrol temporarily alleviates symptoms of MS attacks without fundamentally slowing the disease’s progression. “They [weren’t] able to give me disease-modifying medicine, like Avonex, because [this required] a passport or being a citizen.” Reluctantly, Getu returned home to Ethiopia.
“Whenever the attacks came, I used the same medicine…many times I had attacks.” Dissatisfied that Solu-Medrol was not slowing her MS overall, Getu traveled to Norway in hopes of obtaining disease-modifying medication. “The same thing happened: they said that I should have [citizenship] or a passport. So I came back home.”
Then, in Ethiopia, Getu met a man who had undergone brain surgery in India. “[He] told us that Indian [clinicians] are good at [treating] all diseases, not just MS…heart surgery, bone marrow transplant…unbelievable! He explained everything, [saying] ‘just go there, you will get treatment…they are excellent!’”
His urging convinced Getu to seek treatment in India, and her exploration led her to A&K Global Health. We guided her into the exceptional neurology care of Narayana Hospital in Bangalore, India, facilitating all travel and legal arrangements. Just weeks after meeting our Addis Ababa staff, Getu and her husband were in Bangalore.
“Right after my arrival, I was admitted to the hospital, and I saw Dr. Krishna,” Getu says of her first meeting with Dr. Gopal Krishna Dash, Narayana Consultant Neurologist and Epileptologist. “He explained everything to me and I started the [five-day course of] Solu-Medrol. On the [sixth] day, he said that ‘you should be on the disease-modifying medicine Avonex,’” – the life-changing drug Getu had pursued for 10 years. She was thrilled with Dr. Krishna’s confirmation that Avonex was right for her treatment. “He asked the pharmacy people to come and explain every detail, whatever question I [had]…they explained to me the side effects, how to inject, each thing they explained to me before I [took] the medicine.” And the same day, Getu gave herself her first, long-awaited injection of Avonex.
After years of seeking treatment that could slow her MS, the country where A&K Global Health helped her find it holds a special place in Getu’s heart. With a twinkle in her eye, she declares her intention to return: “Next time, I know that I am going to be able to walk – no wheelchair from now on – so I will come and visit all of India!”
Your A&K Global Health family looks forward to welcoming you back standing tall, Getu.
A&K Global Health
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