Multiple sclerosis has taken its toll on Joe Revello's body over the past 18 years, but the neurological disease has never squelched his positive spirit and his willingness to advocate for others with MS.
Always searching for answers to the puzzles of MS and ways to stop its progression, Joe has been under the care of a number of neurologists over the years. In late 2012, he returned to the MS Center at Holy Name Medical Center after many years away to once again seek the expertise of its medical director, neurologist Mary Ann Picone, M.D. He discovered that Botox®, a common treatment for wrinkles, had the ability to ease pain in his lower back by relaxing stiffness and spasticity in his back muscles.
"I have been able to walk with crutches for many years, but the back spasms were making it more difficult every day," he says. "I came back to Holy Name because I recalled that Dr. Picone devoted time for a complete exam and to answer my questions."
The MS Center at Holy Name is only one of several such centers in the tri-state area and the only certified facility in Bergen County. Patients come from all over New Jersey and the metropolitan area so their multiple medical and psychosocial needs can be met at one convenient location. Families are encouraged to participate in their loved ones' rehabilitation.
Joe, a Plainfield resident, says that upon entering the MS Center again his visit was like no other he has experienced at other neurologists' offices.
"From the time I came here to the time I left, the entire staff was phenomenal," he says. "I underwent an entire physical work-up, including lab work and screenings of my walking and coordination, and answered at least 50 questions about my medical history. Dr. Picone, my nurse practitioner, and other members of the team considered the whole picture, not just my symptoms."
Although enormous strides are being made in MS research, there is still no known cause or cure for the debilitating disease. It is believed that MS may be caused by an autoimmune response that attacks and destroys myelin, tissue that surrounds the nerves of the brain and spinal cord. Consequently, messages from the brain to the spine and other parts of the body are disrupted. This can result in problems with movement and coordination, bladder or bowel function, visual problems, numbness, and fatigue.
Because MS affects every person differently, the MS Center provides a host of diagnostic, treatment, management, support, and educational services designed to help patients maximize independence, minimize secondary complications, and cope with psychological issues. Dr. Picone and her team participate in a number of clinical trials to assess the safety and effectiveness of many new medications that are coming down the research pipeline. These include oral, local, and intravenous therapies that relieve symptoms, such as Botox®, and others that stem the progression of the disease, including monoclonal antibodies that assist in preventing an autoimmune response attack on a patient's myelin.
"Emerging therapies are very exciting because they offer patients increased options for treatment," notes Dr. Picone. "Conducting a thorough evaluation every few months and monitoring each patient regularly is necessary to evaluate if and how these medications are working."
Joe points out that the Holy Name MS Center has been invaluable in helping him to improve his quality of life. He enjoys attending baseball games and visiting Atlantic City. He and his wife, Jo, recently returned from a vacation in Bermuda. They and members of their extended family and circle of friends support the MS Center through fundraising efforts. Joe is committed to advocating for his fellow patients with MS.
"I have come back from dark days with this disease, and I intend to make sure that all those who could benefit from the MS Center's services will find hope here."