A 23-year-old Amsterdam man who was successfully treated for an uncommon autoimmune disorder at Albany Medical Center fulfilled his dream of becoming a police officer by graduating from the law enforcement training academy in January.
Michael Palmerino, whose condition periodically prevented him from talking just two years ago, graduated from the Zone 5 Law Enforcement Training Center at Schenectady County Community College.
Two summers ago, Palmerino found himself progressively weakening to the point that he occasionally lost the ability to talk, chew or swallow. Albany Med neurologist Rose Domingo, MD, diagnosed Palmerino with myasthenia gravis—an uncommon autoimmune disease that causes abnormalities to muscle receptors, leading to abnormal nerve-to-muscle signaling and muscle weakness.
“While some patients with myasthenia gravis respond well to medication, Mike’s condition was so severe that it would have prevented him from fulfilling his dream of becoming a police officer and could have even been fatal,” explained Dr. Domingo. “When a patient’s quality of life is so severely impacted, they are candidates for surgery to remove the abnormal thymus gland that is causing this reaction in the body.”
Palmerino sought the assistance of Thomas Fabian, MD, chief of the section of thoracic surgery, for a procedure available locally only at Albany Med—minimally invasive thymectomy (thymus removal).
“Beginning the day after my surgery, I was no longer dependent on medications to treat my illness,” Palmerino said. “I immediately felt amazing, and there are no limits to what I’m physically able to do.”
The minimally invasive approach also was favorable to Palmerino because he had a chest tattoo that held a great deal of sentimental value—his grandfather’s Schenectady Fire Department badge. “Obviously I would have done whatever was needed to treat my illness, but to leave my grandfather’s badge intact meant a lot to me,” he said.
Palmerino will work for the Amsterdam Police Department.