March 8, 2019

Siblings Face Challenges With Multiple Sclerosis

Siblings Bryan Clay and Ambra Jackson enjoy playing cards and spending time together.

Siblings Bryan Clay and Ambra Jackson enjoy playing cards and spending time together.

Brother and sister Ambra Jackson and Bryan Clay share more than just the normal sibling bonds. They also share the challenges that come with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Jackson first noticed a problem in 2001 when she began experiencing blurred and double vision, as well as numbness in her feet. I didn’t really pay much attention to it, because it seemed to go back to normal, said Jackson, who was 19 at the time.

However, when Jacksons blurred vision returned a few months later, it didn’t go away. An athlete at Philander Smith College, she had to quit the basketball team. Her eye doctor sent her for an MRI, which showed significant neurological damage.

MS is a disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissue, resulting in a loss of muscle control, numbness, difficulty with balance and vision problems.

For Ambra, MS progressed quickly, putting her in a wheelchair and forcing her to drop out of college. I would fall because I would lose my balance and because my feet were numb, she said. The first time I saw Dr. Lee Archer I was in the wheelchair, and we didn’t know if I would walk again.

Archer, associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicines Department of Neurology, started Ambra on chemotherapy and medication, and soon she surprised everyone by walking unassisted.

The treatments I received at UAMS really turned me around, said Ambra, who has since re-enrolled in college and hopes to become a rehabilitation counselor to help other people experiencing similar medical challenges.

One of those people is Clay, her younger brother by four years. After experiencing headaches and problems with balance, Clay was diagnosed with MS in 2004 and also is Archers patient. We take it one step at a time, said Clay, whose condition has stabilized thanks to regular infusion treatments and medication.

Together, Jackson and Clay give credit to their mom and Archer for their unending support. During the hard times, our mother has been our strength when we are weak, Clay said. And Dr. Archer is the best. Of all the doctors Ive ever seen, he cares the most.