Atlanta, GA,
09:05 AM

From Uncertainty to Clarity

Iliana Bermudez says the care of the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute staff at Shepherd Center helped her understand and manage her autoimmune disease, neuromyelitis optica (NMO).

Iliana Bermudez is one of five children in a close-knit family. She and her husband have a four-year-old daughter, and Iliana works as a sports journalist, a job she enjoys so much that she says it doesn’t feel like work.

Twelve years ago, at 28, when Iliana was living and working in Connecticut, she felt a pain in her neck that wouldn’t go away. Then, she noticed a tingling feeling in her hands. Her doctor suspected a pinched nerve and scheduled an MRI, but while Iliana waited for the results, her left arm began to feel heavy. Her mom, who came for a visit and to check on her, noticed Iliana’s leg was dragging when she walked.

“It happened really fast,” Iliana recalls. “Within a week, I was unable to move the left side of my body.”

Iliana was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica (NMO), an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the spinal cord and optic nerves. She had difficulty walking and started to use a wheelchair. Knowing she would need help and support, she moved back to Atlanta to be closer to family. A neurologist recommended the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center. There, she saw Ben Thrower, M.D., the medical director of the MS Institute.

When it all happened, it was scary because I didn't really know what was going on. But Dr. Thrower was great. He helped me better understand NMO, and he said there was help. It made things easier. I have to say there was a before and after meeting Dr. Thrower. Before, it was a little confusing. Afterward, he made everything clear and calm,” Iliana explains.

Based on Dr. Thrower’s recommendations, Iliana began physical therapy. She also visits the MS Institute every six months to get an intravenous infusion of medication to reduce her NMO symptoms and see a member of the MS Institute team. Even though she only sees them every six months, she says many staff members are like family to her.

Iliana’s career led her to move with her family to Miami. With her symptoms in check, she is walking again and even enjoying spin classes. She has returned to the activities she loves – spending time with family, traveling, and working. Last year, her travel for work included trips to Tokyo, New Zealand, and Qatar, and she won a Sports Emmy® Award, her fourth!

But no matter where she goes, Iliana says she will continue to travel to Shepherd for treatment.

“If I move across the world, I will still come back to Shepherd Center because this place is amazing.”

 Written by Ruth Underwood

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About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.