Nine Years Later, Resident Still Fighting Rare Disease

OCEAN CITY – Nine years
ago next week, a popular Ocean City resident and restaurant worker was stricken
with a rare disease that left her in a coma for weeks, clinging to life and
wheelchair-bound still, but for nearly the last decade, she has figuratively
gotten back on her feet and is closing in on a college degree that will allow
her to help others with her plight.

On Memorial Day weekend
nine years ago, resort resident Stacy Harim enjoyed the beach just like
hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors to Ocean City before things
started going terribly wrong. When her back started hurting, she went to a
medical center and was told she probably pulled a muscle and the X-rays didn’t
show anything. She was sent home with some prescribed muscle relaxers and the
last thing she remembered was falling asleep on her couch.

Weeks later, Harim woke
up in the hospital and was told she had been in a coma for about a month. She
was diagnosed with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, which had inflamed her
brain and spinal cord. At first, the prognosis was grim and Harim’s family was
told if she survived, it would likely be at least six months before she showed
any signs of recovery and she would likely have brain damage.

“When I woke up from the
coma, I was paralyzed from the neck down,” she said last week. “I gradually
started getting feeling back in my shoulders and arms and I began to relearn
everything all over again including writing my name.”

Harim spent a total of
seven months in the hospital, the last five of which were spent on intense
physical therapy. She eventually moved back to Ocean City independently
straight out of rehab, still not knowing if she would ever regain movement in
her legs.

“I decided I wouldn’t
let that hold me back and returned to school,” she said. “Unfortunately, I will
never be able to walk, but I’m pretty grateful that I survived whether I can
walk or not.”

In the years since,
Harim has steadfastly worked toward her college degree despite several setbacks
and additional surgeries along the way. At one point, she developed an
infection in her spinal column and had to get rods in her back, which further
delayed her education.

Several years and many
hardships later, Harim’s indomitable spirit presses on and she is now close to
finishing her education. However, her handicap-equipped van, which has provided
her with so much independence over the years, is nearing the end of its useful
life, which has curtailed her ultimate goals somewhat.

“I am now doing really
well and taking online classes because my van isn’t so dependable anymore,” she
said. “I want to do social work in hopes of helping others with disabilities,
but social work isn’t offered on-line, so I’ve been trying to get my minor out
of the way so I can focus primarily on my degree when I transfer back to
Salisbury.”

To that end, a
fundraiser is planned for Wednesday, June 2, at Seacrets in an effort to raise
money for a new handicapped-accessible van for Harim. The event, called “Five
More Wheels for Stacy,” including the four wheels on the new van and a reliable
spare, will include raffles, a silent auction, food and drink specials and live
entertainment, including Pompous Pie and a reunion of sorts for the original
Love Pigs.

The donation is $20 at
the door, and the proceeds will be used to help acquire a new van for Harim,
but the event is as much a celebration of her renewed life as it is a
fundraiser.

“I really want people to
know what I fighter I am,” she said last week. “I want to work again in
something I am passionate about. I want to volunteer, but again, I want to be
dependable and with this van, that isn’t happening.”

 

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