Hannah Crews, a Troy alumna and former Tropolitan photographer, has started an awareness campaign called “Take a Stand” in honor of her mother, Staci Crews, who has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for over 18 years.
Crews began the campaign as a fundraiser to finance stem cell transplant surgery.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, stem cell therapy has the potential to slow down the disease and reverse some of the neural damage caused by it.
However, due to the experimental nature of the transplant, Staci Crews’ insurance policy does not cover the procedure.
Through donations, Hannah and her mother hope to raise $25,000 to fund the surgery, as well as the travel and aftercare associated with the procedure.
They also hope to spread awareness about multiple sclerosis, which Hannah says is typically misunderstood and overlooked.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines multiple sclerosis as “an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system.”
The symptoms and severity of the disease are unpredictable.
Crews’ symptoms began with what she described as “growing pains” in her right ankle, which was unusual given her age.
After visiting her family doctor, Crews was sent to a neurologist for testing. A spinal tap confirmed that Crews had multiple sclerosis.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, undiagnosed MS symptoms can become apparent during pregnancy. Such was the case with Staci Crews.
“I turned 30, found out I was pregnant, and found out I had MS all in the same month, July of 1998,” Crews said.
The multiple sclerosis soon began affecting Crews’ ability to walk. She opted to use a wheelchair in order to keep up with her children and the quick pace of her household. However, years later, Crews would become completely dependent on her wheelchair.
With declining motor skills, Crews has sought out various forms of treatment. According to Hannah, her mother attempted to lessen symptoms with medicinal treatment, as well as a simple diet. Neither seemed to help.
Crews later had two balloon stent treatments. The first installation relieved some symptoms, but the second surgery had insignificant results.
Crews and her family have had to find a source of strength throughout this journey, which has ultimately been God and one another. The question “What keeps you going?” brings tears to both Crews’ and her daughter’s eyes.
Crews admits that she feels tired, both emotionally and physically, and that it is difficult to keep fighting against the disease. According to Crews, she will keep pushing forward because of her family and faith.
Hannah, along with her father and brother, have acted as a major support system for Crews. Hannah finds comfort in knowing that “One day, if it’s in this life or the next, she will be walking again.”
As of November, the “Take a Stand for Staci Crews” crowd-funding page has raised over $2,000. For more information and the opportunity to make a donation, visit the cause’s fundraising page on www.youcaring.com.