Published on May 13, 2019

little ballerinas

Dancing Through Life

As a life-long ballerina, Hope MacDonald, 29, often sees her world through spins and twirls. But in February 2017, she was seeing two of everything and didn’t know why. Neither did several area hospitals and ophthalmologists.

Needing an answer, Hope went to the Emergency Department at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.

The emergency team recognized that double vision was unusual for a woman so young and ordered an MRI. Perry Smith, MD, neurologist and Stroke Medical Director at Shady Grove, visited Hope’s room to explain the results of her scan. The MRI revealed lesions or scars on her brain, indicating multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that damages the spinal cord, brain and optic nerves. MS can cause fatigue, numbness or tingling, vision problems, and weakness.

“MS can be a challenging disease to diagnose because the symptoms are often fleeting and will vary depending on the location of inflammation in the brain,” Dr. Smith said. “It’s not uncommon for people to have symptoms for months or years before they’re formally diagnosed. Hope’s symptoms and imaging findings, at the time she presented to our Emergency Department, were extremely suggestive of MS. Luckily, we were able to establish a diagnosis and initiate therapy right away.”

Hope spent more than two weeks at Shady Grove, where doctors helped her find the right medication and treatment options to manage her disease.

“Dr. Smith made me feel completely comfortable and confident after being presented with a diagnosis that is so life-changing,” Hope said. “He reassured me the whole time, giving it to me straight, but allowing me to know that I could handle it.”


Hope owns Bella Ballet, a children’s dance studio in Gaithersburg. One of the first questions she asked Dr. Smith following her diagnosis was whether she’d be able to dance again.

“In medical school I was taught that when a patient is diagnosed with MS, they should be told that it is likely they will be in a wheelchair in 10 years,” Dr. Smith said. “Fortunately, a lot has progressed about our understanding of the disease and our ability to treat it. Now I can tell a patient with a new diagnosis that the goal of treatment, and my frank expectation, is for them to live a normal life.”

Despite nearly constant fatigue because of her MS, Hope still dances 40 hours a week. She manages her disease with a healthy diet, medication and an unwillingness to let the disease define her.

“I teach the kids who come to my school to overcome adversity. I practice what I preach,” Hope said. “MS is not a walk in the park, but I have to keep on keeping on.”


Hope’s diagnosis highlights one facet of Shady Grove’s comprehensive brain and spine care program. Shady Grove’s neurosurgeons apply their skill to treat everything from back pain to complex tumor removal so patients don’t have to travel for advanced care. Earlier this year, Amin Amini, MD, Medical Director of Neurosurgery at Shady Grove, pioneered the use of the Mazor X robotic guidance system in Maryland. The tool brings greater precision during surgeries for debilitating spine conditions.

And for the last several years, the hospital has earned national recognition for its fast, quality stroke care. Beginning this summer, Shady Grove will be able to treat cerebrovascular conditions, such as serious strokes and aneurysms, even more quickly and precisely with the addition of a biplane imaging system. The biplane will allow Shady Grove’s skilled surgeons to perform thrombectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that can quickly remove blood clots, restore circulation and lead to improved long-term outcomes for patients.

“Over the last seven years, Shady Grove has built a world-class neurology program,” Dr. Smith said. “With the addition of the biplane, our ability to offer endovascular interventions for our patients with stroke really takes it to the next level. We are excited to bring this technology to our community.”


Living with a chronic brain or spine condition can be challenging and impact every aspect of your daily routine. Rehabilitative care can enhance the quality of life for those who suffer from these challenges. Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation provides both inpatient and outpatient treatments for a variety of chronic conditions, including:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Stroke and brain injury

To help rebuild functions that may have been impacted by disease, Adventist Rehabilitation offers programs such as:

  • Physical therapy – to help patients move more easily and comfortably, rebuild strength, and relieve pain
  • Speech therapy – to build or reteach skills to talk, comprehend and swallow
  • Occupational therapy – to help patients achieve optimal function or increase independence by learning specific skills and strategies
  • Support groups – to help patients and their loved ones share experiences in a compassionate environment

Learn how Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation can help manage chronic conditions by visiting

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