Woman battling rare disease wants to raise awareness - WNEM TV 5

Woman battling rare disease wants to raise awareness

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A Mid-Michigan woman is opening up about her illness so others who may be suffering know they are not alone.

This month is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month. It's an autoimmune disorder that can cause severe weakness in the body.

"I would grab a gallon of milk and it felt like it weighed 50 pounds and my arm would fall," Jessica LaBerge said.

That was the first of many moments she experienced before realizing her body just wasn't the same.

"Obviously it doesn't weigh that much, but my body and muscles were telling me different," LaBerge said.

Soon those symptoms got a lot worse.

"My mouth started to droop. I felt like I couldn't hold food in there anymore and at first, I thought I was having a reaction. Then my eye drooped really bad like I had a stroke. My speech sounded funny," LaBerge said.

She went to multiple doctors who either had the wrong answer or no answer at all, leaving her in a terrifying position.

"I couldn't even pucker my lips to kiss my kids. I couldn't blow out a candle. I couldn't chew, eat. I couldn't swallow my spit. So I knew it was something more than what they were saying it was," LaBerge said.

She went to the internet. Eventually she stumbled upon a very rare disease - myasthenia gravis. LaBerge brought her findings to a doctor right away where they confirmed she had found the culprit.

"It's a neuro autoimmune disease that causes extreme weakness in all the voluntary muscles. So the muscles you use to see, breathe, chew, swallow," she said.

LaBerge said she has had multiple procedures done and takes medicine daily to keep up with her condition since there is no cure. She also said the condition can be deadly.

Even though the disease is rare, LaBerge said she wants to get the word out just because it is so commonly misdiagnosed.

"If you're seeing someone out there that has slurred speech, a droopy eye, has trouble walking - they might not be drunk. They might not be crazy. They could have myasthenia gravis and they could really need your help," she said.

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