Becky Siefering receives new MS drug at MHP’s CCIC
Having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in her 30s, Becky Siefering of Oskaloosa has lived with the disabling disease of the central nervous system for more than 30 years.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, signs and symptoms of MS differ greatly from person to person, depending on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. While there is no cure for MS, treatments can help modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.
While MS has caused Becky to lose the ability to walk independently, she doesn’t let the disease stop her from living life to the fullest. Becky believes in giving back to her community, and is a long-serving member of the Mahaska Health Partnership Board of Trustees. She and her husband, Lyle, own Hawkeye Real Estate and enjoy destination travel and trips to visit family, including their 10 grandchildren.
“Lyle and I are also fanatics when it comes to Iowa State Basketball,” Becky said with a chuckle. “We are Cyclone fans through and through and enjoy going to the games in Ames.”
Becky continues staying informed of all emerging new therapies for MS. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) very recently approved drug, Ocrevus, for both primary progressive and relapsing MS. It's also the first disease-modifying therapy (DMT) shown to slow the progression of the primary-progressive form of MS, which Becky has.
Becky’s neurologist, Dr. Bruce Hughes, practices at Mercy Ruan Neurology in Des Moines. He believed Becky was a good candidate for this new FDA-approved MS therapy, which is administered as an intravenous infusion. Becky was all for it, with one caveat; she wanted the drug to be administered at MHP in the Cancer Care and Infusion Center (CCIC).
Administering Ocrevus requires close supervision of experienced healthcare professionals. Access to appropriate medical support to manage potential severe reactions is also needed. According to CCIC Registered Nurse Sally Blake, staff often are tasked with administering chemotherapy, and they understand the importance of following drug manufacturer guidelines.
“It was a hard sell,” Becky explained. “This is such a new drug for the treatment of MS, and there are many guidelines for this medication, including how it is stored. Nurses administering the medication need to know about all of the potential infusion reactions.”
Sally said CCIC staff jumped through every hoop with doctors and insurance companies because they knew being able to offer treatment at MHP would be beneficial not only for Becky but for many other patients. “We do more than administer chemotherapy,” Sally explained. “We are an infusion center and we have the expertise right here.
“There are many kinds of new medications coming out and our goal is to offer infusion services for a wider variety of patient needs so that they can stay close to home, where we know them, care for them and love them.”
After talking at length with the nursing staff from CCIC and getting the support of MHP Allergy/Immunology/Pulmonology Specialist Dr. Stanley Horner, who committed to being in the building each time Becky receives and infusion, Dr. Hughes agreed.
“He didn’t want me to be the first one at MHP to receive this treatment,” Becky said. “But I told him someone had to be the first and as a board member, I felt it was important that I get the infusion in Oskaloosa.”
Becky said it was the best decision. “It takes six hours for the infusion and I know I have the expertise here, plus I know everyone and feel very comfortable,” Becky explained. “I know I’m in good hands. Dr. Horner is checking on me, the CCIC gals are always right here for me, making sure I’m comfortable, and we are so close to the house that Lyle can come and go as he pleases.
To date, Becky has received two infusions and her next one is scheduled in six months. “I’m very excited about the potential of this drug,” she stressed. “My goal is to get to my seat at the Iowa State Basketball games a little easier, and having an easier time getting into the shower. I’m optimistic, but we’ll see.”
Allergy/Immunology Specialist Stanley Horner, DO, is Board Certified to treat patients for issues relaed to allergies and the immune system. Allergic and asthmatic reactions stem from a reaction of the immune system. Through his specialty, Dr. Horner works to determine the root cause of patient's symptoms to alleviate sinus, skin and respiratory issues. Dr. Horner practices alongside Melissa Lamb, ARNP-BC, in the MHP Medical Group.