New medicine for 19 year old’s life-draining disease

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Iliana Rivera sits on the right-hand side.

by Katelyn Skye Bennett

You enter the Office of Multicultural Development and see a blue-green head of hair on a girl in a scooter. Her laughter reaches your ears. Who is this joy, you ask? She is 19 year old Iliana Rivera, my roommate. Why is she in a scooter? She has Myasthenia Gravis; she has had it since high school.

Iliana’s disease has degraded such that she cannot walk on her own, hence the scooter, or keep her head up for long periods of time. Studying is difficult because memorizing takes longer. Her nerves do not reach the muscles to tell them what to do, so the disease makes Iliana weak.

The medicine Iliana is on has not been improving her health. Thus, she is starting a new medicine today, new to her and to the scientific field. If it works, she could have her life back again. In fact, if it works for many people, it could become a staple for people with bad cases of MG. This is the most hope she has had in a while. However, if Iliana responds poorly to the medicine or becomes sick while on it, she could die.

Iliana’s living and regaining life is obviously preferable, yet it comes with all the unknowns of starting to live again. She would become like a child physically, learning to become independent.¬†Yet Iliana is also hopeful about this — think what it might be like to live a normal life again!

Iliana’s flute lies on a shelf in our room, waiting for her to complete a song on it. Sabor Latino, the Latin dance club, calls her name as well. Ideally, she could sleep more and have less all-nighters because homework might take her less time. New opportunities would abound.

But first, the hospital. Today Iliana will receive her first injection. According to the plan, she will receive one injection per week for four weeks. This will occur every six to eight months for two years, best scenario, or for five years, worst case.

Iliana is brave yet anxious in the face of the unknowns. If all goes well, Iliana might have her life back. If she reacts or catches a sickness, she might lose it. The balance is in God’s hands.

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People are praying for Iliana from all over the United States: The saints in Connecticut are lifting up her name before God. People in Denver and Chicago are crying out to Him as well. Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other states are lifting up prayers for Iliana. To name a few organizations or groups, Wheaton College’s Mu Kappa, the William Osborne Society, Koinonia, the Office of Multicultural Development, Chaplain’s office and her dormitory floor know about her new medicine and are praying. Iliana’s close friends are doing the same, and one of her best friends will be by her side while she receives the injection today.

If you have read this blog, please pray as well. Mourn and rejoice alongside Iliana as she battles MG, and step back in amazement at the beauty of the church coming together for a sister in Christ. May Jesus be forever praised!

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