February 2, 2018 8:00 am
Updated: February 2, 2018 7:55 pm

New technology saving lives at the Health Sciences Centre

WATCH: Karon Sackney joined the morning team on 680 CJOB Friday morning to talk about how HSC changed her life.


Three years ago, Karon Sackney had to face the very real possibility she would never be able to move her legs again.

When she began losing feeling in her legs seven years prior, she went to the Health Sciences Centre immediately. Doctors found she had a tumour pressing on her spine, and opted for emergency surgery.

“My spinal cord was compressed to 97 per cent – I had three per cent before I would have been paralyzed,” Sackney said.

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They couldn’t remove it all because it was in a tricky spot, so Sackney had MRIs regularly to check on its growth.

Following surgery, life returned more or less to normal.

“I tended to our horses, I rode my motorcycle, life was good,” Sackney said. “But within two years of that first surgery, I was symptomatic again.”

The tumour in her spine had grown, and her doctor chose to try a new radiation machine. That worked – but again, just for a few years. After a while, the tumour had grown, this time, corkscrewing around Sackney’s spinal cord.

It meant a more complicated surgery was necessary, and an envelope was inserted to allow the tumour to grow into that space instead of wrapping around delicate vertebrae. Eight rods were placed to support her spine, but Sackney emerged from surgery with a partially paralyzed leg. She needed lots of physiotherapy in the following months, and was told that she likely wouldn’t be able to have another surgery if the tumour continued to grow.

“I had to start living with the reality that I might one day be fully paralyzed from the waist down,” Sackney said.

When MRIs showed the tumour had indeed continued to grow, radiation was proposed as the next option. Sackney’s doctor was hopeful a new piece of equipment would help boost her treatment.

The Varian Edge was on its way to the Health Science Centre, and Sackney’s tumour was growing slow enough that it would be okay to wait the few months it took to get there.

November 2016 rolled around, and Sackney was among the first to use the Varian Edge.

It was simple but effective – five treatments a week, without discomfort or nasty side effects.

Since then, checkups have shown Sackney’s tumour hasn’t grown since first being treated by the Varian Edge. She’s confident that should any further growth be found, the machine that saved her life will work its magic again.

“I still have some odd feelings in my leg from the surgeries and, sadly, I finally had to sell my motorcycle,” she said. “But I can still ride my horses. I still walk three miles a day.”

The Varian Edge was purchased using a $5,000,000 donation from Paul Albrechtsen. Sackney said she is unbelievably grateful to Albrechtsen and others who give to the Health Sciences Centre and the HSC Foundation for helping purchase equipment that improved her life and has helped save countless others.

The HSC Foundation Hope to Life Radiothon is on 680 CJOB from 9 am to 6 pm Friday, Feb. 2.

The goal was to raise $125,000, that record was shattered with a whopping $184,685. Donations can still be made online at hopetolife.ca or by phone at 204-515-5612.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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