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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 29 October 2016
2 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 29 OCTOBER 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ‘Thank you for making our dream a reality’ After two liver transplants and 10 years of failed IVF treatments in Australia, Joeanne Friggieri was finally granted the gift of bringing a life into the world thanks to the persistence of her Greek doctors Brandon and Joeanne Friggieri with their newborn daugther, Charli. PHOTOS: NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU. NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU The risks associated with in vitro fertilisation treatments (IVF) and the potential sideeffects can be persistent and even dangerous for women who are otherwise perfectly healthy, let alone for someone like Joeanne Friggieri. For the 41-year-old Australian woman, however, there was no other option, no other path. It was 10 years ago when Joeanne and her husband of Maltese heritage Brandon, 43, embarked on a long and painful journey of both psychological and financial struggle, in order to make their dream No. 5803 NEOS KOSMOS Published since 1957 Published by Ethnic Publications Pty Ltd (ABN: 13005 255 087) of 169 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122. Printed by Rural Press Printing, Ballarat. Contacts Reception Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Fax: (03) 9482 2962 Email: email@example.com Advertising Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.neoskosmos.com letters Email: email@example.com Address: Level 1, 169 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122 of bringing a baby into this world a reality. "I've always been told I'd need IVF with all my health issues," she tells Neos Kosmos. "I started trying exactly 10 years ago. At the same time I was struggling for my life." Joeanne, who has type A diabetes alongside several other auto-immune conditions, has undergone two liver transplants. After her second liver transplant her system shut down as she acquired a viral infection. Mail: PO Box 6068 Hawthorn West, Victoria 3122 Subscriptions Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: (03) 9482 2962 Letters should not be more than 200 words and they must indicate your full name, address and a day time telephone number for verification. By submitting your letter to us for publication you agree that we may edit the letter for legal, space or other reasons and may, after the publication in the paper, republish it on the internet or in other media. NEOS KOSMOS - English Publisher: Editor-in-chief: "She got really sick and slipped into a coma," her husband Brandon explains. "We were told by the doctors that we'd be lucky if she made it through the night. "She was in intensive care Christopher Gogos Sotiris Hatzimanolis Editorial director: Nelly Skoufatoglou Journalists: Anastasia Tsirtsakis, Nikos Fotakis Contributors: Dean Kalimniou, George Stogiannou, Billy Cotsis, Zoe George, Spyros Petrounakos, Fotis Kapetolpoulos, Anna Bourozikas Proofreader: Angela Costanzo Graphic design: Peter Kelidis, Nicole Denton for a very long time, she had liver failure and as a result of the use of heavy medication she developed bilateral myopathy in her arms; medicine caused fractures, the bones in her feet are starting to die off. She even had to learn how to walk all over again five years ago." While fighting to stay alive, Joeanne was having IVF treatments. She and her husband would go through sev- eral cycles in Australia and not once did they manage to fall pregnant. "Health conditions aside, many people look at me and assume my body weight was an issue, but I was a size 10 before getting pregnant. The weight I've put on is a result of the steroids in order to carry out the pregnancy," she explains. "We would go through a treatment here, not once successful, and take a break as quietly. We did not have much support from the doctors in Australia. We had to push to get in touch." According to Brandon, wanting to go to a private rehab hospital, they were put in the "hard basket", as Joeanne's predicament was "making things difficult". They both felt "too much of a complication, a nuisance even". Prior to meeting Dr Nick Lolatgis, the couple felt that they were being sucked into a spiral of numbers, trapped into a money-crunching saga. "When we were referred to Dr Lolatgis, we realised we weren't just numbers, possibilities and bank account figures − we were human be- ings, and finally we were getting the support we wanted," Brandon stresses. "He picked up where others left off and went back and did the whole health check, all over again. He wasn't deterred by the history. Did not turn us away. He didn't fill us with false hope either. He empathised. He left no stone unturned." In the process of his investigation, Dr Lolatgis discovered that Joeanne and her husband shared the DQ Alpha (DQa) gene. Having a genetic match for DQa impacts the connection between the paternal DNA contribution (sperm) and the maternal body (uterus). Once recognised by the uterus, the paternal DNA in the semen, instead of being allowed to implant, sends a thwarted genetic message to the mother's body, causing the immune system cells to eliminate the embryo, which is interpreted as an "anomaly". "Dr Lolatgis, as part of a Lymphocyte Immunisation Therapy (LIT), drew white blood cells from me and injected them into Joeanne's skin to prepare the maternal immune system for pregnancy. We did this procedure twice to ensure her body would accept the embryo," Brandon explains. Once that stage was complete and Joeanne's health issues had been stabilised, it would be through Dr Lolatgis' recommendation of Dr Con Pantos that the Friggieris could take it to the next level: Greece. Travelling to Greece, however, to undergo yet more cycles of IVF at Genesis fertility clinic came at a cost, but there are absolutely no regrets for the happy couple. Brandon had to sell his business and rely on family support for a year. "It was our dream to have a baby and we were always willing to sacrifice things in order to get there," he says. "We were prepared to sell our home; I've sold the café I owned in Melbourne to be able to go to Greece. Note this though, if we had found Dr Lolatgis sooner we would have perhaps saved ourselves a lot of trouble." Did they ever think of quitting? Many a time. But Joeanne's faith in her new doctor kept her going. Having already spent a fortune and experienced so much pain "for nothing" made them risk it and persevere.
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