Hudson man finds some relief from MS


By Francesca Olsen
Hudson-Catskill Newspapers


Tuesday, September 21, 2010 2:16 AM EDT

Lifelong Hudson resident Michael Quirk is feeling pretty good these days. He can laugh and play with his two young children, Gabriel and Riley, age 4 and 6. His mind is clearer, his mood is better and the multiple sclerosis that made him isolated, depressed and fatigued for so many years has finally taken a backseat to the rest of his life.

“I’m kind of getting back to the old me, slowly but surely,” he said. He has an experimental medical procedure to thank for this, and he wants to make sure as many people know about it as possible.

The procedure opened Michael’s left jugular vein, which had been 80 percent blocked. A balloon was inflated inside the vein, widening the area and allowing for increased blood flow.

“It looked like a straw, twisted,” he said. “That’s two feet away from a stroke.”

Quirk found out about the procedure through extraordinary circumstances: his friend Nick happened upon a video of a Canadian news show online which talked about a Dr. Zamboni, an Italian doctor whose wife was diagnosed with MS. His studies suggested that some MS patients have abnormal blood drainage from the brain and spinal cord, causing nervous system damage (the medical term for the condition is “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency”).

Nick posted a link on Michael’s wife Kacey’s Facebook profile. Kacey immediately went on a search for more information. She researched the procedure online until 4 a.m.

“I was kind of blown away by it,” she said.

She found many accounts on from people who had had the procedure but no solid medical studies with multiple participants — no cold, hard evidence that it would work for Michael.

At the time, Michael was in bad shape. He was in and out of the hospital, constantly dealing with painful flareups from MS.  “I was defeated at that point,” he said. “I didn’t care. I was done. I wasn’t the same person. But (Kacey) picked up the reins and didn’t stop running.”

Kacey works in an orthopedic office and decided to speak to one of the doctors there. He suggested she contact one of the surgeons from The Vascular Group in Albany.

“Nobody had heard of it,” she said, but they told her to make an appointment, and bring all of her research. That was when Michael and Kacey met Dr. Manish Mehta.

Dr. Mehta examined Michael, gave him an ultrasound and made an appointment for another examination. At first, “he didn’t think there was going to be a positive resolution,” Michael said.

Mehta said he’d look into it. He had never done the surgery before but the Quirks knew of a doctor in California who had. To their surprise, instead of simply calling that doctor, Mehta flew across the country to meet with him — he turned out to be one of Mehta’s old college friends. “That threw me,” Kacey said. “He told us he was just going to call the guy.”

He watched the doctor do the procedure in California and asked the Quirks if they’d still like to do it. Of course, they said yes.

Before it happened, Kacey said she was plagued by guilt — what if she was pushing her husband into a surgery that wouldn’t work?

“I was scared,” she said. “It was experimental. It was so new. Here I am, having my husband getting this invasive procedure performed without any proof that it actually worked. That was my worry. I’m a medical person, so for me that was a huge concern, but we were both willing to take the risk.”

When Michael had a venogram to see if his vein was blocked, he said it was the only time he ever prayed for the worst. Kacey felt the same way.

“I prayed, let them find something. Let this not be for naught. When (the doctor) came out and told me, I burst into tears. Dr. Mehta was floored that he found anything. He was really encouraged.”

“She wasn’t pushing me,” Michael said about Kacey. “I didn’t care either way. She is a beautiful person. She didn’t want me to be in excess pain if it didn’t work.”

It worked. That was in January. Michael is still feeling better than he did before. About a week after the surgery, said Kacey, “he was a new person.”

“He had this crazy energy. He was running around the house, playing with the kids ... he was like how we met when we were 19. I had that guy back!”

“My attitude towards (MS) now is completely different,” Michael said. Before, “it was just poor me, poor me. There was no color in my life, no joy.”

Before, loud noise was painful and Riley and Gabriel knew to play quietly. Michael didn’t want to talk. He suffered from depression and “a lot of his cognitive skills were dulling,” Kacey said. “He was very lethargic and very confused. He would be searching for words all the time.”

Now things are different. He still suffers from MS — he’s got numbness and he does have episodes where his arms and legs don’t do what his brain is telling them to do. But it’s nothing like it was before, he said.

Since the procedure was done, the Quirk family has been “blown away” with phone calls and messages from others with MS who are extremely interested in the procedure — and extremely inspired that it worked for Michael. Dr. Mehta is now putting together his own medical study on the procedure.

The “old me” that Michael references is actually the young Michael, who at age 18 hadn’t experienced any serious symptoms of MS and had just passed the Navy SEAL fitness test. He was medically discharged during the physical exam, when a Navy doctor reviewing his medical records found that Michael had developed double vision for about a week in middle school.

“He said, ‘you have MS,’” Michael said. After a spinal tap and ongoing episodes, he was formally diagnosed and his life plan of joining the Navy was dashed.

The Quirks both said they want everyone possible to know about the procedure. If you have MS, a venogram will tell you if the jugular vein is narrowed.

“MS is a weird thing,” Michael said. “Weather changes it. Stress changes it. It’s different with everybody. It’s not a broken leg ... but if everybody (with MS) got this procedure done, I think it would be the first time everybody had the same result.”