Trying to find a family doctor isn’t a new challenge for people living in rural communities, but for Ingrid Steppan, it is the ticket for coming home.
Steppan is currently in Ottawa recovering from a stem-cell transplant after a four-year battle with an extremely rare disease. Though she has needed specialized treatment that required her to seek care in Ottawa, she is hopeful she can return home to continue her recovery.
However, she needs access to a family doctor to supervise her condition in order to make the move back to Cranbrook, according to her daughter Kyla Beauchamp.
Steppan has been battling stiff-person syndrome — a disease with symptoms including convulsions, muscle rigidity and impaired mobility— but a new treatment has dramatically improved her condition.
After symptoms began in 2008, she was told by doctors that there was no cure and that she would probably die. She bought a house in Saskatchewan to spend the remaining time she had left closer to extended family.
While in Saskatchewan, another doctor convinced her to seek out more specialized treatment in Ottawa. There, she met Dr. Harry Atkins, a bone-marrow transplant specialist with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, who performed a autologous stem-cell transplant, along with a group of other specialists.
The operation, which has traditionally been used to treat leukaemia, involves purifying blood-forming stem cells and reintroducing them into the body after knocking out the immune system.
Atkins has performed two similar operations on two other patients, with both those cases going into remission.
Since Steppen’s operation earlier this year, she has been able to retire her wheelchair and walker,but it’s still a long road to a complete recovery.