BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Tyesha Jefferson was having trouble getting up from the couch and knew something was wrong.
Jefferson, who was born and raised in Birmingham, knew there was a chance that she might have spinal muscular atrophy, a rare neuromuscular disorder that diminishes motor functions over time and makes it difficult to do everyday activities, like walking or eating. Years earlier, her sister had been diagnosed with SMA, which had confined her to a wheelchair.
15 years ago, Jefferson decided to see if she had SMA. The tests came back positive. She was 28 years old with a 9-year-old daughter.
Following her diagnosis, Jefferson’s first few days were difficult, saying she would cry a lot. She wasn’t sure what was next for her.
“I thought people would look at me differently,” Jefferson said.
Through the years, Jefferson experienced mild symptoms from the disease. However, it has been the last three or four years that her health has taken a turn. Nonetheless, she continues to work to keep life as normal for herself and her family as possible.
Today, Jefferson often uses her 10-year-old daughter, Caileigh, to help her get dressed. Around the house, she will sometimes use a walker, but mostly, she does her best to walk on her own.
“I try to do things,” she said. “I’m trying to push myself to do things that I couldn’t do.”
Recently, Jefferson and Caileigh went to an Easter egg hunt at Faith Community Fellowship in Huntsville. Going across a big field, Jefferson said it was hard to roll her walker across the grass, but she pushed through so that her daughter could have fun that day and also prove to herself that she could do it.
“I was tired, but I was able to accomplish walking to the grass,” she said.
Jefferson spends two hours each day working with a physical therapist and is on a regimen of Evrysdi to help manage her condition. She said she knows that her SMA will continue to get worst, but she is grateful for what she has and what she can still do.
According to the group cure SMA, nearly 200 people across Alabama suffer from the disease.
“I pray and I thank God,” she said. “A lot of people with this, they can’t walk at all. I thank God for my disability because I can still do things that others can’t do.”
Jefferson’s oldest daughter, Calandra, is 24 now and said her mother continues to inspire her.
“She never asks for help,” Calandra said. “She wants to do everything on her own.”
For Mother’s Day this Sunday, Jefferson is not sure what she and her daughters will do. They know they will have lunch, but besides that, they just want to enjoy each other’s company.