Nov. 2005: Lisa Thomas-Laury UPDATE

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Action News HealthCheck reporter Anita Brikman with a revealing interview. Lisa Thomas-Laury talks about the medical mystery that forced her to leave Action News.

The last time we checked in with Lisa, it was February 2003. Her days were filled with rigorous therapy, and a blood cleansing treatment called plasmapheresis. It was all to fight progressive pain and weakness in the nerves of her arms and legs. But as hard as Lisa worked to heal, she was fighting a losing battle. Lisa: "I was getting the incorrect treatment the whole time." In the library of her suburban Philadelphia home, Lisa recently told me what happened. Her disease is so rare, it was misdiagnosed. Doctors knew she had abnormal proteins in her blood, and that those cells were attacking her nerves. But they thought the damage was limited to her arms and legs. Lisa: "Because I got misdiagnosed so many times, this thing started to eat away at the nerves of my stomach, my voice box. I had a paralyzed vocal cord, and that's the main reason I had to leave Channel Six." Lisa finally ended up at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where she got the right diagnosis. It is a syndrome called POEMS - which can involve nerve damage, organ enlargement, hormonal imbalances, and skin changes.

Lisa's bone marrow was churning out bad proteins into her blood that were attacking her nerves. The process had to be stopped. Anita: "Could you have died from this?" Lisa: "Oh, yes, the way my hematologist put it... 'This thing is shutting you down.' She said, 'You have to have a bone marrow transplant and you need it now.'" During the risky procedure last August, doctors removed good bone marrow from Lisa's body and froze it. Then they gave her toxic doses of chemotherapy to wipe out the bad cells still floating in her blood. They put the bone marrow back in - and waited and hoped for improvement. It came about three months later. "The first thing I noticed, when I knew I was getting better - my voice came back." The strength in Lisa's arms and legs is returning, though she still wears leg braces to help her get around. Throughout her lengthy ordeal, cards and letters from viewers have brought her inspiration. She told me, when she was at her sickest, people no longer recognized her on the rare occasions she left her home. But that, too, has changed. Lisa: "Now people ask all the time. So I know the old Lisa is coming back. I tell people, I'm alive again! I feel like my old self, I'm beginning to look like my old self!" Lisa: "I'm feeling stronger and stronger and hoping to come back and join you guys." So the question we are asked most often, when will Lisa return to Action News? Well, we're all hopeful and so is Lisa but ultimately it's the debilitating disease that will decide. Thankfully, she's doing great and we're all thankful for that.

And another sign of her progress will be her appearance on the parade.

(Copyright 2005 by Anita Brikman, Action News. All Rights Reserved.)

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