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Nicholas Urbina

From Thoughts of Death to a Normal Life

Holy Name MS Center - Nicholas Urbina

Nicholas Urbina was a senior in high school when he thought he was going to die. He had been sick for months – with numbness, double vision, vomiting and vertigo – and he was so weak he couldn't get out of bed.

"I couldn't put into words what was going on but I thought it was the end for me," Nicholas said. "I thought I was dying and I could see my parents were so scared."

Attending school was impossible, Nicholas needed help from his mother, father or brother just to get out of bed. He drifted in and out of consciousness during several hospital visits before a spinal tap revealed he had multiple sclerosis.

"The diagnosis didn't scare me – I was relieved they pinpointed what was wrong with me," he said. "But it was still a slow road to recovery."

Nicholas soon found Dr. Mary Ann Picone, Medical Director of the Alfiero & Lucia Palestroni Foundation Multiple Sclerosis Center at Holy Name. She prescribed medications that made his symptoms slowly subside and helped him get his strength back. He remembers the day he went back to school for the first time – on his birthday and in a wheelchair, but happy to be there.

"It was a huge flood of emotions – I hadn't seen anyone in months," he said. "I also went to my prom and my graduation in a wheelchair. It was my way of saying hey, ‘Hey, I'm

here and I'm fine.'"

Still, Nicholas had his dark days. At one point he told his father, "I'm never going to get out of this chair and walk again."

Indeed, his progress was snail-paced. It was three years before he was able to walk. He needed a family member to inject his medication each day, making him feel trapped and unable to travel. Yet he could feel his body recovering.

"Dr. Picone was a huge help, to me and my family," Nicholas said. "I'm not just some guy showing up – we've built a relationship and they give me great care. I wouldn't be where I am today if not for her and the staff at Holy Name."

Now, age 30, Nicholas hasn't had a relapse in more than five years. He has a full life spending time with family and friends and working as a physical therapy aide; after receiving so much care and attention for years, he wanted to do something to give back. In addition to Dr. Picone, Nicholas credits much of his physical well-being to the care he receives from the staff at Holy Name and an MS drug, Ocrevus, which only requires twice-a-year infusions instead of daily injections.

"I feel fine – between 1 and 100, I'm a solid 90," Nicholas said. "And when patients I work with feel down, I can tell them that I was in a lot worse condition and look at me now. I can be part of a support system for them and I know how important that can be."

Learn more about MS Center at Holy Name