Andrew Joannou has been dealing with Tourette’s syndrome since he was an infant. Instead of developing more control over his condition as he got older, it only got worse. His story is one of being bullied, beat up, misunderstood, and kicked out of churches because they could not understand what he was going through.
Tourette’s syndrome is a difficult condition where those affected have varying degrees of involuntary verbal outbursts and physical tics. Joannou, 46, is one of the 200,000 Americans who have been diagnosed with the severe form of Tourette’s. He would beat himself relentlessly in the head, shout obscenities in the street, bang table tops, and stumble every step. It was so bad, that he could not even hold his wife’s hand.
“When we walked hand-in-hand, he would have a stumbling tic, and he would pretty much yank my arm,” said his wife, Amy Joannou. “There were times when we would both almost stumble to the ground.”
The couple have had to make many compromises in their 13 years of marriage. Going out to dinner is a struggle and showing affection is not easy. So last year, they decided to take drastic measures to give them a chance at a different life. Andrew elected to have deep brain stimulation surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Usually the surgery is done for patients suffering from Parkinson’s, but it has been performed in a handful of Tourette’s patients.
The results from the surgery were life changing.
It took three surgeries over the course of three months to finish the job. But after seeing his tics decrease by about 75 percent, the couple have decided it was well worth it. The most important thing for him to do after having Tourette’s surgery? Go for a walk with his wife, hand in hand. The London native is excited about beginning what can only be described as a fresh start with his wife.
“It was awesome,” Andrew Joannou said. “I was physically able to sit still and physically able to walk and be quiet.”
Tourette’s syndrome is linked to both genetic and environmental conditions, although doctors have been unable to pinpoint an exact cause. It can be socially debilitating for those who suffer from it. When diagnosed, most can learn to train themselves to partially control the tics. But for those like Andrew who are unable to overcome their tics, more drastic measures may be necessary. His story is an inspiration to all couples who have a spouse struggling with Tourette’s.