Leslie Ferrier - From Despair to Hope
When Leslie Ferrier says Dr. Picone of Holy Name Medical Center saved her life, she isn't indulging in hyperbole. She had been planning her own suicide, trying to decide when and where so it wouldn't be messy. At 41, she had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and vowed she wouldn't live with the disease.
Her decision to end her life was fueled, largely, by the doctors who first told her she had MS. One told her she should just be thankful she didn't have a brain tumor. Another said she had a couple of years, at best, before she would rely on a cane and then a wheelchair, and not long after that, "her brain would become Swiss cheese."
"I was a pretty tough cookie and this just took it all out of me – I was distraught, broken and thought my life was over," Leslie said. "I couldn't believe my body betrayed me like this."
But her husband, James McGlynn, dragged her to a local meeting about one of the various MS drugs on them market. While there, she asked one of the leaders of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for the best doctor in the state treating MS. She was referred to Dr. Mary Ann Picone at Holy Name Medical Center's MS Center.
Dr. Picone is the Medical Director of Holy Name's MS Center, which provides comprehensive services for MS patients at one location, including same-day diagnostic testing and results, an infusion room, orthotic clinic, and Botox treatment for spasticity and chronic headaches.
Leslie, who lives in Asbury Park, called Dr. Picone the next day. Her first appointment lasted more than two hours as Leslie met with staff members and then Dr. Picone. She poured out her fears and ticked off her symptoms – tingling up and down her legs followed by a severe bout of nausea, dizziness, and extreme fatigue until finally, she couldn't hold a pencil or lift her arms to feed herself.
"Dr. Picone really listened to me and showed me the first expression of empathy and hope I heard from a doctor," Leslie said. "She told me that I didn't have to quit my job and I certainly didn't have to quit my life. She said she was my partner in this and would help me handle it all – I could still lead a very productive, wonderful life with MS."
Leslie left the appointment and told her husband, "Ok, I'll try. Meaning I was going to try to live with the disease for a while."
It was rough before it got better. Despite an intense needle phobia, Leslie had to inject herself every other day for three years with a medication that left her feverish, shivering and nauseated. She also tried a new drug in a pill form that landed her in the hospital when her heart rate dipped precariously low.
By the fall of 2012, Aubagio, a tiny new pill, was available. Leslie was elated and suffered no side-effects except for shedding some hair, which only lasted about three months.
Today, Leslie commutes each day to New York City for her job as a Vice-President of Human Resources for an international restaurant group. Six years after her diagnosis, she still has some tough days, but she also has good ones. Very good ones.
"Living with MS isn't easy, but it is better than I ever imagined in those dark, terrible days during my diagnosis," Leslie said. "Dr. Picone literally saved my life."