In 2009, Patrick Fitzgerald was flying high. As a high-powered executive in Apple’s iTunes division, he would regularly meet with Steve Jobs and was accustomed to working as many as 100 hours a week.

But health problems began to take a toll on his busy life.

“The problems had been mounting for a year,” Fitzgerald says. “I had shingles. My left leg was dragging. I was having trouble with my speech, and I was even losing vision in one eye.”

Physicians previously didn’t know what to make of it as his issues persisted. But then a friend of his, a physician at Keck Medicine of USC, said it sounded like multiple sclerosis — and a journey to a solution began.

Team at the Ready

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

When Fitzgerald came to Keck Medicine, doctors ran tests on areas such as motor skills, vision and balance — and ultimately they were able to make a diagnosis of MS.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed, the neurologists assembled a multidisciplinary team to care for every aspect of his needs. “MS involves neuroradiology, urology, internal medicine and other areas — in his case, gastroenterology,” explains Lilyana Amezcua, MD, a board-certified neurologist and multiple sclerosis specialist who is treating Fitzgerald. “What makes USC unique is we have a specialist working with him in every problem area. We’re going to give him the best.”

Diagnosing and treating patients with greater precision is at the heart of The Keck Effect. Medication can be a challenge, but over time, the Keck Medicine of USC team found an effective form of combination therapy. Fitzgerald now reports that his gait is more stable and his speech returned to normal — important for a man who has found great success in the boardroom. In fact, Fitzgerald has even returned the business world, consulting in technology. “I can now comfortably get together with someone in business,” he says. “You wouldn’t even know I have MS.”

Even though he knows the disease is still degenerative, he has never felt more encouraged since his diagnosis.

“USC gave me hope and gave me a positive outlook,” he says. “I may not be able to reverse MS, but I can at least get the most out of what I’m working with.”

By Eric Butterman

Visit the USC Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center to make an appointment or for more information about our services.