Updated: Aug 10, 2021
This guy indeed! Yianni was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS) in 2013, shortly after his 40th birthday.
We created "Let's Eat! - A Collection of Family Recipes" as a fundraising project with the goal of publishing a cookbook of traditional Greek family recipes.
I want to share our story to illustrate the impact of MS on our lives. I say our story and our lives because the diagnosis impacted us as a family.
A Bit About Yianni
Yianni has always been a greengrocer. From the age of 16, he started working before and after school at the Adelaide Central Market. Yianni then proceeded to own & operate several fruit & veg stalls within the Market.
Starting his day in the early hours of the morning, he would go to the Adelaide Produce Markets (at Pooraka) to select the fresh local produce and load it on to the truck. He would drive the truck to be at the Adelaide Central Market as early as possible. The team would then unload the truck and stock the cool room.
Yianni would coordinate the displays and together with the team display the produce ready for sale. He would work the entire day, serving, refilling shelves and prepping stock.
He would come home when the Market closed, order the stock for the following day and literally fall asleep mid-meal on the couch...and then wake up at a ridiculously early hour to start all over again. ALWAYS WITH A SMILE!!
This was our life for 15 years. He was a machine! Physically fit, sharp as a tack and determined to do the best job that he could for our family.
In July 2013, all of that stopped.
It started off when we noticed that Yianni was limping. We didn't think too much about it as he did have a bad back. We all thought that it was sciatica. But sciatica is painful and he was not in pain. Weird right?!
Yianni was eventually sent to a neurologist for a MRI and told that he had Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
He did not take it very well because, quite honestly, he (and I) didn't really know what MS was.
But what is Multiple Sclerosis?
In a nutshell, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves.
MS is a condition of the central nervous system, interfering with nerve impulses within the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is characterised by sclerosis a Greek word meaning scars. These scars occur within the central nervous system and depending on where they develop, manifest into various symptoms.
MS affects over 25,600 in Australia and more than two million diagnosed worldwide. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20-40, but it can affect younger and older people too. Roughly three times as many women have MS as men.
There is currently no known cure for MS.
There are several forms of MS, but no two people present with the exact same symptoms.
Yianni has Primary Progressive MS which means that disability typically increases steadily over time, usually without periods of relapse and remission.
Symptoms include progressive weakness without obvious attacks or recovery, balance issues, and problems with walking, speaking, swallowing, vision, fatigue, bladder, or bowels.
Approximately 10-15% of people with multiple sclerosis have Primary Progressive MS (PPMS). This type of MS commonly affects middle-aged men, although it can affect women and other age groups too.
Thankfully we have a fantastic neurologist who helped us every step of the way. I won't go into all of the testing and medication...this is for another time.
But Yianni's health problems didn't stop with the MS diagnosis.
We didn't realise that Yianni also had an underlying heart problem (not related to MS) and he had to undergo open heart surgery...twice in a year!
In 2015, Yianni unfortunately suffered a post-operative stroke. Thankfully he was in ICU and they acted very quickly.
The part of his brain affected by the stroke was the thalamus which is a busy part of the brain. The thalamus, which means "inner chamber" in Greek, is on top of the brainstem near the centre of the brain.
The thalamus has many functions, including:
It manages our sensitivity to temperature, light and physical touch and controlling the flow of visual, auditory and motor information;
The thalamus is involved in motivation, attention and wakefulness;
It’s in charge of our sense of balance and awareness of our arms and legs;
It controls how we experience pain;
It’s also involved in aspects of learning, memory, speech and understanding language; and
Even emotional experiences, expression and our personalities involve the thalamus.
In Yianni's case he has experienced loss of memory, aphasia (trying to find words), has difficulties with aspects of learning and weakness to his already affected right side of his body.
He's been through quite a bit, and we are truly lucky that he is still with us.
He's not the Yianni that we remember full of energy and motivation. Yianni may take a bit longer to remember your name, or to finish a task but he's still the same old positive, loving, wonderfully natured Yianni that we know and love.
I am happy to report that with the current treatment, Yianni's MS is stable and Yianni is now that he's been forced to slow down, he is focusing on his health.
Multiple Sclerosis and a stroke will not identify who he is. He is still Yianni...Yianni V2.0!!
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Remember we are a fundraising project raising money for MS Research Australia.
Geia sas! Thank you for your time.