MCDOWELL COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Fifteen-year-old Sarah Painter went to sleep one night feeling fine. When she woke the next day, she had double vision.
Sarah is a sophomore who makes straight A's at McDowell Early College. She is from the small town of Dysartsville and was diagnosed with pediatric multiple sclerosis in July of last year.
She had been experiencing symptoms for six years, but didn't know the numbness in three of her fingers, and then hand, and then up her arm, was anything really serious. She went to doctors, but kept getting the same inane answers.
"They kept telling us it was normal," mom Jen says. "They told us it was in in her head and she needed more exercise."
The tingling then spread to both hands. Her lower arms. Her side. A small area in her stomach. Even the upper part of one leg.
When Sarah started experiencing the double vision, she went in for blood work. That is when she heard the diagnosis of "pediatric MS," which is essentially the same type of MS adults can get, only more rare and more aggressive. There are only a handful of specialists in the country.
"With her diagnosis, we've found you never know what tomorrow holds, so you have to make the most of each day," says mom Jen.
Sarah herself says it differently.
"Some days we feel like life is being robbed from us, but have to remember WE are greater than this monstrosity," she said. "WE are warriors and fight greater battles than anyone around us can imagine, " Sarah says.
She is a 15-year-old great faith.
Sarah has been through 6 MRI's, two hospital stays, had over 50 tubes of blood drawn, over 100 injections, two doses of chemotherapy and two rounds of IV steroids. Among other things.
For those who aren't aware, MS results from nerve damage disrupting communication between the brain and the body. It causes many different symptoms, including vision loss, pain, fatigue, and impaired coordination. It can be known as the "snowflake disease," because no two cases are the same and there's no way to predict what will happen next.
March is MS Awareness Month.
"That's why we're reaching out," Jennifer said. "We think more children out there have been misdiagnosed and are looking for answers, just like we were."
Again, Sarah said it differently.
"There aren't many of us with pediatric MS, so we are the diamonds in the rough," she said. "We have each other's back. Just like rough circumstances make the coal great… great can come out of us from our own rough circumstances."