Perth woman woke up with a scary health problem

Shavaughn Baynton was like any typical 22-year-old — until the day she woke up with a scary problem that triggered a life-changing diagnosis.

“Basically that day I just woke up and my vision was just double permanently, all the time,” she told news.com.au.

The Perth woman contacted her boss, who was an optometrist, to let him know she wouldn’t be able to make it into work.

But when she explained her “terrifying” problem he insisted she come in for an eye test.

“What he told me was my right eye it wouldn’t actually turn out, so it was stuck in the corner of my eye on the inner side, Ms Baynton said.

“I couldn’t see that because obviously my vision was totally doubled.

Shavaughn Baynton was diagnosed with MS in 2015 just before her 23rd birthday. Picture: Supplied.
Shavaughn Baynton was diagnosed with MS in 2015 just before her 23rd birthday. Picture: Supplied.

“But he saw it the second that he saw me, but I had no idea what was going on … I was thinking I might be going blind.”

From her eye test Ms Baynton was referred to other specialists and after other tests she got an answer to why her eyesight had suddenly deteriorated: She had Multiple sclerosis, a condition where nerve impulses in the brain spinal cord and optic nerves are interfered with.

While Ms Baynton didn’t get her MS diagnosis until just before her 23rd birthday looking back she says her first symptoms appeared when she was 17.

The student struggled with fatigue, as well as tingling and pins and needles in her body.

But she dismissed the symptoms and tried to get on with life as best she could.

Experiencing symptoms and then trying to explain them to others can be “very socially isolating” for people when they have MS, Ms Baynton said.

But when she told her boyfriend Simon of her diagnosis, his reaction later that day was very unexpected.

The diagnosis saw Ms Baynton make several lifestyle changes. Picture: Supplied.
The diagnosis saw Ms Baynton make several lifestyle changes. Picture: Supplied.
And she has now lost 32 kilos. Picture: Supplied.
And she has now lost 32 kilos. Picture: Supplied.

“We’re laying in bed having a chat and I’m like, ‘I’m probably not even going to be able to control my emotions. I’m going to be emotional all the time, I’m going to forget things, I’m not going to be able to shower myself and I might end up in a wheelchair’,” Ms Baynton said.

“That probably wasn’t what I believed at the time, but I think I was just trying to stress the importance of how bad it could get so he would be prepared.

“And he just looked at me and said, ‘I just don’t care about any of this. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you’.

“And I was like, ‘hang on what are you saying though?’ And he was like, ‘I’m saying that I want to be with you forever’, and I was like, ‘are you proposing?’ and he was like, ‘you know what yeah I think I am’.”

A few weeks later, after asking for Ms Baynton’s father for permission, Simon proposed properly at a family barbecue.

The couple married a year after Ms Baynton’s diagnosis. Picture: Supplied.
The couple married a year after Ms Baynton’s diagnosis. Picture: Supplied.

Ms Baynton said the proposal was pivotal in shaping her sense of self in the face of such a life-changing diagnosis.

“I think that was a real defining moment in terms of me being able to deal with it as well, because you do realise you are not your disease (when) that person can separate you from the disease you have,” she said.

Planning a wedding, coupled with her MS diagnosis, Ms Baynton decided there was no better tme than the present to try and lose some weight.

“Having a wedding to plan at the same time was probably a really good cataylst for me to get a healthier lifestyle, because you have to walk down the aisle in a massive white dress, don’t you?” she said with a laugh.

Weighing 110 kilos at the time of her diagnosis, Ms Baynton has since lost 38 kilos and weighs 72kg.

She tried several diets including going vegan, but found monitoring her daily calorie intake combined with a good gym routine was the most sustainable route for her weight loss.

Ms Baynton does a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise and says that the change has been more than just physical.

“The difference in my MS 100 per cent for me didn’t come from dietary changes. It more came from going to the gym,” she said.

“It was the first time that I ever had a gym routine and the weight started coming off and I started building muscle.

“It was the first time that my fatigue really started feeling better as well.”

Ms Baynton’s experience mirrors a new lifestyle guide by MS Research Australia which is aimed at encouraging people with the condition to get moving.

Many people with MS have lower levels of physical activity. However research has linked exercise to a reduced rate of relapse in MS patients as well as helping with pain management.

Ms Baynton is now a full-time student at Murdoch University where she is working on an MS research project.

She said that while many people with MS can lose confidence and feel “what’s the point in trying to feel healthy” an exercise and healthy diet had been life-changing for her.

“Life does become very very different when you have MS, but it doesn’t mean that you should just give up on everything,” Ms Baynton said.

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