“I had a peace and a joy and a love, and it was perfect”
MORONI—Daniel Kjar had had a difficult night when he went to work on a winter morning at the end of 2008, but he didn’t expect he would lose the ability to walk by the end of the day.
He had been feeling sick and had just spent a restless night with pain in his legs.
“My legs … felt like fire,” he said. “I wasn’t able to sleep much at all that night.”
He would later find out that he had transverse myelitis, a rare central nervous system disorder related to multiple sclerosis that injures the spinal chord and can cause paralysis, particularly in the lower limbs.
Before Kjar went to work that December day, his legs gave out. He picked himself and left for work anyway.
“About halfway through my shift, my legs started to shut down and all the strength was going out of them,” Kjar said. “It was like ice cold water being put inside my body.”
He was taken to the emergency room, where doctors performed several tests, including multiple MRIs and two spinal taps. However, the doctors were as puzzled as Kjar and his family were.
“They knew it was neurological, but they didn’t know what it was,” Kjar said.
After several possible diagnoses, including multiple sclerosis, doctors told Kjar that he had idiopathic transverse myelitis, a disorder that can cause permanent paralysis or permanent limited mobility, according to myelitis.org.
For Kjar, full recovery lay through two years of intense pain, limited mobility and consistent physical therapy. After his initial symptoms manifested, he spent five days in the hospital receiving intravenous steroid treatments.
“I came home, and I was in a wheelchair,” he said. “I didn’t have strength in my legs to do a lot. I might be able to use my legs for a moment, but then I wouldn’t be able to use them for hours and hours.”
The Kjar family has lived in Moroni since the mid 2000s, when he graduated from the University of Utah. He and his wife, Lindsay, have two daughters, who were 8 and 3 years old at the time his illness appeared.
Kjar said they moved two mattresses onto the floor and all slept in the same room. He said this and other factors helped his family draw closer together during his recovery, and the closeness with his family helped him keep a good attitude. He and his wife spent a lot of time together, and Kjar said he is grateful for all Lindsey did to help him.
“To pass the time, I started to crochet,” he said. “My wife got good at it. She crocheted with me.”
In addition to keeping his hands busy, Kjar spent time in his father’s woodshop, and to keep the mood light and to have fun together, his family told jokes and quoted movies, such as, “Just keep swimming” from “Finding Nemo.”
“My girls were really good too. They were very understanding and calm and allowed me to heal,” he said.
Kjar said having the support of his family and the community helped him avoid feeling anxious or depressed. He said he also relied heavily on his faith in God, a faith that he now wants to share with anyone he can.
When he was in the hospital, he asked his father to give him a blessing to help him control negative feelings he described as “out of control.”
“After he finished, I had a peace and a joy and a love, and it was perfect,” Kjar said. “It happened instantly. It went from the most terrifying feelings … to the most powerful peace and joy and love.”
He said that although he felt instant emotional relief, his physical pain wasn’t healed immediately.
“I never felt from it (the blessing) that I was going to be healed at that moment or that I was just going to jump up and go, that everything was going to be perfect, but it let me know that Christ was there and that he knows each of us and that he’s very aware of each of us,” he said.
Now, two years later, Kjar has regained mobility and life has returned almost to normal, but he said much has changed. He still suffers from chronic pain, but good-naturedly shrugs it off, saying he sees things differently now and appreciates each day and even each moment.
“If I had to give up things that I learned and experiences that I gained, I would choose to go through it again,” he said. “I would go through it again before I’d give up that knowledge. It really brought things into focus quickly.”
He said he wants others to know that trials can be overcome and even learned from.
“No matter how hard things get, if we keep trying and we keep moving forward the best way we know how, things will be okay,” Kjar said. “Things can get really dark … but life is wonderful.”