Staying in the Game
Shepherd Center helps Air Force officer Angel Torres manage his multiple sclerosis — and keep doing what matters most.
It took five years for Capt. Angel Torres to get a correct multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis for the sharp, stinging pain he was experiencing. Even then, his initial treatments led to a failing liver and a falling white blood cell count.
By the time the career Air Force officer transferred to Shepherd Center in early 2020 for further evaluation, he was as frustrated as he was pessimistic.
“Then I walk in, and everyone’s smiling, calling me by my name, and I’m thinking, ‘Come on, they can’t really be this happy,’” Angel says. “But whether they are or not, they bring that joy and kindness every time I come in. I can’t tell you how uplifting it is simply to go somewhere you’re valued, you’re welcomed — where you’re listened to.”
After meeting with Ben Thrower, M.D., medical director of the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center, Angel got a new course of action to manage his MS and keep adverse side effects at bay. His care team also prescribed physical, occupational, and speech therapy at Shepherd Center. That holistic approach has helped to strengthen his muscles, combat foot drop issues, and address memory fog.
“I’m getting services at Shepherd Center that I literally couldn’t get anywhere else,” Angel says. “And they understand where I’m coming from because they work so extensively with veterans and service members.”
Ultimately, Angel says it’s not just Shepherd Center’s extensive resources and expertise that stand out.
“It’s how much they invest in you. It’s the amount of time you have with doctors. You’re not rushed. Staff members are always talking with each other, too. Everybody I work with at Shepherd Center is constantly collaborating on my case.”
The approach is paying off in the most important ways, starting with Angel’s service to his country. Angel is a C-17 program manager in the Air Force, based in Warner Robins, Georgia. He also serves as the executive officer for his unit, responsible for reviewing all military officer evaluations for his division chief.
“I still have my military career thanks to Shepherd Center,” Angel says. “There are good days and bad days. But with this treatment, I can still put in the hours necessary to meet mission requirements, despite my challenges with MS.”
Equally as important to Angel, he still has the energy and mobility to be a hands-on dad. He plays soccer and football with his children. And loves to cook their favorite family meal — smoked BBQ ribs and homemade macaroni and cheese.
“I want to do as much as I can with my kids and make it fun for them,” Angel says.
As for the future, he’s already considering a second career post-service.
“I’m thinking about being an MS patient navigator,” Angel says, “just to help other folks with MS better deal with it. My interest in that is completely due to what it’s meant for me to have all the amazing people at Shepherd Center on my side. I’d like to pay that back.”
Written by Phillip Jordan
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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, multiple amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. Ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals for rehabilitation and the best in the Southeast, Shepherd Center treats more than 850 inpatients and 7,600 outpatients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.