News: 3rd Maneuver soldier faces her biggest fight yet
Story by Sgt. Tamika Dillard
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The military is full of challenges. Frequent moves, deployments and the stress associated with them, and the physical daily grind can be battle enough.
Some people, however, face even more.
"When I joined the Army in 2004, my first assignment was in Fort Hood, Texas," said Sgt. Camilia Hall, an automated-logistics sergeant and native of Houston, Texas.
"After spending two years stationed at Fort Hood and completing a deployment, I reenlisted with the hopes of one day retiring."
Hall deployed a second time while stationed at Fort Hood, and in October 2009 she received orders to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
"Everything was normal for the first six months until I started to have these unbearable spasms in my right side," Hall said.
"I went to the emergency room, but they could not find anything wrong. After a second visit to the emergency room, the doctor gave me a CT scan, but I still got no answers - no ideas about what was going on inside of me. Finally I was scheduled for an MRI."
The day of the MRI
"I walked into the neurologist's office with an open mind and a prayer," Hall said. "If anyone would know what's wrong, the neurologist would."
"As the neurologist showed me the picture from the MRI, he told me that I have lesions on my brain - 11 of them, along with this disease called multiple sclerosis," Hall said.
"I remember thinking, 'I have 11 lesions on my brain - what? Are you serious, doc?' It was like pouring acid on an open wound.
He took it a step farther by asking me how I felt about it.
"My eyes grew wide and my jaw fell to the floor. The inner me was saying, 'Gather your thoughts, Cammie, get it together.'
I replied, "Sir, I have no idea what that is, but I have seen it on the show 'House'!"
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.
Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision.
The progress, severity, and specific systems of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.
The cause of MS is still unknown, but scientists believe that a combination of several factors may be involved.
Studies are ongoing in the areas of immunology, epidemiology, and genetics in an effort to answer this important question.
Understanding what causes MS will be an important step toward finding more effective ways to treat it and ultimately cure it, or even prevent it from occurring in the first place.
"Having MS is both a burden and a blessing," said Hall. "I am tired and weak much of the time, so I can't do things as well as I use to. I can't be 'all that I can be' or even 'Army strong,' however it has not stopped my fight to live."
"It's a burden because I can't be a soldier," Hall said. "I had to be on a permanent profile, because I can't train with my comrades - I can't even conduct physical fitness training. I can't even drive myself around anymore because no one knows when I am going to have a seizure. They come without any notice at all."
On a brighter note, Hall has not let her battle with MS make her give up everything she loves.
"Even with the rough days, I am still able to coach softball and basketball to small children and volunteer with the company Family Readiness Group," Hall said.
"You never know what you have until it's gone," Hall said. "It hurts me a lot to have to let so much go, but I know that I have a strong support system in place."
"Sgt. Hall has an unbelievably strong will; both (1st Sgt. Chadrick Pennington) and I applaud her for the strength she shows every day," said HHC Commander Army Capt. Matthew Giffen. "We are a team, and the welfare of the soldiers always comes first. When Sgt. Hall needed our help, we pulled together to ensure she was taken care of, and we provide round-the-clock support for her."
"My primary care manager told me that I have to be medically discharged due to my illness," Hall said. "The decision is not made by my commander - the Army has a policy for soldiers with a neurological disease, such as mine."
Army Regulation 40-501, Standards of Medical Fitness, states if a soldier has a neurological disease that would hinder the soldier from performing his military duties, he will be medically discharged.
"I agree with Army's decision to discharge me," Hall said. "I don't want to be half of a soldier. If I can't do physical training, Army warrior training, or deploy, then I'd rather just become a civilian."
As she counts down the days until she is retired from the military, Hall has enrolled at Prairie View A&M University, linked up with the MS Society in her hometown and connected with the Office of Veterans Affairs.
"I don't know what to expect from this disease," Hall said. "But I am confident that I will be successful when I get out on the outside."
For information about multiple sclerosis, visit the National MS Society website at http://www.nationalmssociety.org/index.aspx.