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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Finding Hope: Lakeland Woman Recovering From Experimental Treatment for MS

FROM LEFT, Nolen Baker, 4, Steve Baker, Lincoln Baker, 1, and Kristan Baker at their home in Lakeland.
Published: Saturday, June 27, 2015 at 10:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 27, 2015 at 10:59 p.m.
The scariest moment for Kristan Baker came one day last fall as she walked through a Target store holding hands with her toddler son, Nolen. Baker lost her balance and tumbled down face-first, dragging Nolen with her.
Such accidents are a constant possibility for Baker, who was diagnosed 11 years ago with multiple sclerosis. The Lakeland resident has seen her physical decline accelerate since she gave birth to Nolen nearly four years ago.
Baker, 34, has gone from racing in triathlons to worrying she won't be able to catch up to her 1-year-old son, Lincoln, if he dashes toward the street.
"I've got numbness over about 75 percent of my body, and what I feel isn't normal," Baker said. "My feet either feel like they're on fire or they're soggy sponges. I feel like I'm walking on rocks some times. Touch with cold hands takes my breath away; it's painful."
There is no known cure for MS, an autoimmune disease in which the nerves of the brain and spinal cord degenerate, causing a progressive loss of bodily control. Yet Baker is in the midst of an experimental treatment she hopes will halt her decline.
Baker expects to return home today following treatment at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine that involved chemotherapy and a transplant of her own stem cells. Richard K. Burt, a doctor at the school's Division of Immunotherapy and Autoimmune Diseases has pioneered the protocol, now in the third phase of a clinical trial, to treat multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders.
The treatment essentially resets the patient's immune system to the way it worked before the onset of multiple sclerosis.
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