All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for June 2004

Physician Heal Thyself

A Doctor's Battle with MS

June, 2004

When Vince Macaluso was a med student he experienced visual disturbances that turned out to be multiple sclerosis. Now he is both a patient and the director of a multiple sclerosis clinic.


VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: When I looked up and to the left, I saw two corners in the corner of my room, and I said, "That's not right."

ANNOUNCER: And what was happening to then 21-year-old Vincent Macaluso wasn't right. Within weeks he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a potentially devastating disease of the central nervous system.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: It was being stunned at first. And I remember going home, saying, "Look, I'm a smart person, I know what's going on in my body, I should be able to figure out how to cure this." And so, I just went down in my basement and I did more and more research in it, after a while, I realized that I had to keep on going with my life and so I didn't really think a lot a lot about it.

ANNOUNCER: Initially Vince's symptoms were just bothersome. Sixteen years ago, no medications were available to directly treat MS, and Vince went without treatment.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: My exacerbations, when they initially started to come, happened about two to three times per year. I would get little bands of numb strips around the trunk of my body or little bit of loss of feeling maybe in one leg or something and I would just kind of shrug it off, because I didn't have to use the feeling on the side of my body.

ANNOUNCER: But the promising med student knew too much to totally ignore what the future might hold.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: I do remember calling up my father and mom and telling them, you know, "I just can't do this, I don't know what's going to happen. You know, I don't want to -- I can't be a doctor and not be able to walk or, if I'm blind, I can't be a functioning physician that way." And that's when my father intervened, which he has throughout my life in telling me to just stop wondering about the what-ifs; nobody has any control over the what-ifs.

ANNOUNCER: And Vince became a doctor. But as a resident, he started to have weakness in his legs. By then, medications called interferons had been developed to curb the progress of MS. Vince began, and continues to take, a weekly shot of interferon.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: I started medication in 1997, and since that time, I've really only had trouble with coordination in my left hand and one time with a bout of optic neuritis last year. And I took courses of steroids for my optic neuritis, and that totally went away.

ANNOUNCER: So MS became part of Vince Macaluso's life. Oddly, it had always been a part of the picture that Vince had for his future: To become a neurologist.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: I figure, if I can help other people explain this very difficult entity of the brain, if I can explain that to them, then I've helped open up a whole new world to other people as well.

ANNOUNCER: Eventually MS would also become Vince's specialty.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: I didn't know that I specifically wanted to spend the bulk of my time learning about MS, but this is what has come to pass and it's now becoming the director of the MS center at my hospital. It's a real fulfilled prophesy, of sorts.

ANNOUNCER: Being an "insider," Vince feels, gives him an edge in dealing with his condition.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: I know that nerves function better at these temperatures, so if I really want to get the best productivity and coordination, say, out of my left hand, I want to make sure I'm functioning in a cold environment.

Having the knowledge of how to deal with the system that's being broken makes life that much easier

ANNOUNCER: Today Vince is married to Lauren, a pediatrician, and has two young children. It's hard to remember he has MS, but Vince never forgets.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: We all, I think, have the stories of Mr. Jones: He was doing well, he was going to be a promising engineer, but then he had MS, and then he couldn't do anything. Now you see Dr. Macaluso who had treatment afforded to him and he was able to go on and develop a whole MS center for other people with it. And so, if you take those two snippets, it's a wonderful thing.

That brings up the whole current thinking for treatment of MS where everybody needs to be on a platform therapy. That's Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif or Copaxone; that's a baseline of slowing down the disease.

ANNOUNCER: Besides being a doctor, Vince is also an educator. He travels the country giving a kind of "show and tell" about MS and how he and his family have coped.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: I try to make it as understandable as possible without anybody knowing anything about medicine or science. But then, I go into the realm of just taking a step back and looking at life and trying to figure out how I was able to get to where I am at life.

ANNOUNCER: While Vince Macaluso inspires others, he himself continues to be inspired.

VINCENT MACALUSO, MD: I look at all the more influential things into my being, the people in my life, my father, my wife, my kids, my sister who is an actress who doesn't let a single negative thought enter into her invisosphere of existence. And it's a wonderful place to go to not let anybody tell you can or can't do something. It's nice to just go there and say, "I'm me and I'm going to do this right now."

Copyright © 2004, Healthology