Until 12 months ago, Mildura fruit grower Michael Piscioneri led an active, healthy lifestyle, running his family’s business and taking care of his young family.
That is, until Michael started to feel unwell and was stopped in his tracks.
‘I lost a lot of weight in a short period of time and my joints became very painful,’ Michael says. ‘I knew that something was wrong. I visited the men’s health clinic in Mildura where they referred me to the St Vincent’s Rheumatology department.’
Michael was diagnosed with a rare disease called Scleroderma – a chronic connective tissue disease with symptoms including hardening of the skin. Scleroderma can cause serious damage to internal organs including the lungs, heart, kidneys, oesophagus and gastrointestinal tract. The disease can affect every age group, from infants to the elderly, and it is estimated that there are over 5,000 people living with Scleroderma Australia-wide.
‘At first I didn’t know what to expect, I was scared of the unknown. But then I met Dr Wendy Stevens and her team and I knew I was in good hands.’ After two months of tests, which had a severe impact on Michael and his family, he was prescribed medication which would relieve his symptoms quite quickly. ‘Once I started to take the medication my life began to return to normal,’ Michael says. ‘I started working again, my breathing improved and I could manage my pain effectively.’
The hard working team at St Vincent’s gave me my life back. I can now continue to live an enjoyable life with my wife and children.’ Michael wanted to give back to the team who gave him so much, and decided to donate to the Rheumatology department.
The St Vincent’s Rheumatology department research team are leading the way in Scleroderma research, and thanks to a generous donation from Michael the team can continue to undertake this vital research. ‘Our donation is a way of saying thank you. I really hope that in time, the work that the team is undertaking really pays off and we find a cure for Scleroderma. My family and I will be forever thankful.’