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Never Give Up!

Alberto Manfredi -- Ponce County, Puerto Rico

NEVER GIVE UP! These are the words spoken to me by my mother, family, friends, and the staff at the San Juan VAMC when I was diagnosed with MS in 2007. I am Alberto Manfredi and I was born in Manhattan, NY. I moved to Ponce, PR at the age of 28. I later went into the US Army and was stationed in Ft. Hood, TX with many assignments that included a tour in Germany, where I served from 1980-1988 in the infantry.

Alberto Manfredi holidng wife

After leaving the Army, I accepted a job working at the Tampa VAMC in the year 2000, which is when I began experiencing numbing in my hands and legs. In 2005, I had my first attack and was admitted to the hospital because I was seeing double, my left side went completely numb, and I could not walk. The physicians thought I had a stroke and they began treating me for the stroke symptoms. 

For years, the numbing symptoms continued until I resigned my position at the Tampa VAMC due to health reasons. After being seen by several physicians and specialists, a spinal tap and MRI were done and an MS diagnosis was confirmed. This diagnosis was a devastating blow. I had already left my job and since I had no family in Tampa, FL, I returned to my home in Ponce, PR. 

I received preliminary treatment from the Ponce CBOC and was later referred to a neurologist at the San Juan VAMC for further treatment by the MS and SCI Team. I was admitted for 46 days and, I must say, I got to know the staff pretty well and they got to know me, too. The staff attended not only to my healthcare needs, but to my emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs. After the 46 days, I was released to my home with the necessary adaptive equipment to assist with daily living activities. Millie Velez, the MS/SCI Nurse, provided wonderful support and is an excellent caregiver. I would not be where I am today were it not for the encouragement and care of Ms. Velez and the San Juan VAMC staff. They told me to NEVER GIVE UP! I was determined that while I have MS, MS does not have me!

A short time later, I was introduced to the MS Foundation (FSM) as a way to get connected with community support and network with others who have MS. I am truly grateful for the connections that I gained from the FSM because I met Lilliam, the woman who would become my lovely wife in 2009. Lilliam also has MS and she has been a blessing to my life.

I had been isolated, overweight, and alone. I prayed every day about my situation. I thought I was going to die. After some time, my state of mind changed and I was uplifted with the continued support of my wife, loved ones, VA MS/SCI caregivers, including the VA Psychiatrist and Chaplain.

I thank God for bringing people into my life to help me on my MS journey. My wife and I are a support for one another. I receive assistance from the San Juan VAMC SCI team, who trained me to use an electric wheelchair and assistive devices so that I can stay mobile. I faithfully do my exercises as I am determined not to let MS keep me down. I am grateful to be happily married, have a great support system, and a love for life that is stronger and more powerful than this disease.

My future goals are to compete in the VA National Wheelchair games, take trips with my wife, and continue staying involved with the local MS Foundation. My advice to Veterans with MS is to set goals, exercise, follow your doctor’s instructions, stay involved in social and family activities, keep the faith, and NEVER GIVE UP because God hears your prayers. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve my country and if asked, I would gladly serve again.