The time I spent with Panagiota and Manolis made me see that: even if one was to understand medicine and know about MS, Greeks in general prefer to stay away from people with MS.
Showing me photographs when he was younger, Manolis tells me that at the time when he was diagnosed, his girlfriend decided to leave him. Manolis knows this is because he was diagnosed with MS. Panagiota has a similar story, with the addition that not only her then husband left her, but also most of her friends. I find it shocking to learn that Manolis' ex-girlfriend was a nurse-in-training and Panagiota's ex-husband was a medicine professional. Panagiota's husband also had the courtesy of leaving with all their life's savings leaving her with nothing and, in time, having to go back and live with her 80 year old mother.
One would imagine that knowledge of MS should rather substantiate an objective outlook of life with MS and how important relationships are to a person with MS; or anyone with any long term condition for that matter. However, it appears to be that Greek society's pre-conceived notions of "something" happening to you, or a member of your family, is the dictating factor in assessing any human relationship altogether.
With this in mind I found it amazing that Vasiliki has, pretty much, soldiered on through her career as a special needs PE teacher and lecturer. Lefteris, her partner, is amazingly supportive and loving. Vasiliki's experience of MS is a clear example of the opportunities that should be available to any person with MS in Greece; work, friends, life. As it stands, however, even if the government could solve the economic woes that affect the health services in Greece, the largest challenge I see facing people with MS in Greece today is the understanding and acceptance of their own society.
For more information about Under Pressure, go to underpressureproject.eu/
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