Back surgery makes it harder for Modesto mom to care for her two sons with multiple sclerosis

kcarlson@modbee.comDecember 26, 2013 

— Teresa “Terri” Perez of Modesto has a more difficult life than most this holiday season.

She has cared for two bed-bound sons at home while working as a manager for a local medical office. Now, Perez is on the mend from a recent back surgery, forcing her to take time off from work and rely on other family members to care for her sons.

“I have enjoyed a lot of blessings,” Perez said. “My faith gets me through this and it helps my sons as well.”

Miguel Perez, 41, and brother Juan, 30, are disabled by progressive multiple sclerosis. They require 24-hour care. Stanislaus County provides an in-home care worker for four or five hours on most days and then the two patients are their mother’s responsibility.

Since her spinal surgery, Perez said, her sister and nephews have come to her northeast Modesto home to help.

Miguel Perez has severe pain from trigeminal neuralgia, a condition tied to multiple sclerosis. Teresa Perez’s employer, Dr. Priti Modi of Modesto, has treated Miguel with pain medication without success. The doctor added that Miguel has not responded to radiation treatments or surgery.

During winter months, Teresa Perez makes sure the temperature inside the home is around 65 degrees because higher temperatures aggravate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. On the other hand, the chill can trigger intense facial pain for Miguel, so a heat source is kept near his face, Perez said.

Keeping the house cool during the hot summers in Modesto has resulted in huge utility bills.

“(Perez) is depressed due to the death of her husband a few years ago,” Modi said. “She’s unable to give her sons many happy moments because of the progressive disease and pain.”

It helps for Perez to talk about her 43-year marriage to her husband, Miguel Sr., and happier times for the family, formerly of Merced.

Perez met her future husband when she was a teenager and he patronized her parents’ restaurant in San Jose. After they married, he worked in the maintenance department of Circuit City stores. He had diabetes and was disabled by a work injury in 1994.

Their older son, Miguel Perez, started a career supervising medical records for a clinic in Merced and enjoyed the community work done by his company. Juan Perez, his younger brother, had aspirations to become a teacher.

In 2000, Miguel Perez was diagnosed with MS, a disease of the central nervous system that afflicts more than 2.3 million people worldwide. It commonly affects adults who are in their 20s or 30s.

Juan Perez finished high school and started taking courses at Merced College, but found he could not retain information, Teresa Perez said. A year after his brother’s diagnosis, doctors told Juan his symptoms were from MS.

Perez said a specialist told the family that a virus or other environmental factors during childhood possibly made them vulnerable to the illness.

Before their physical conditions became worse, the parents took “the boys” on a cruise to Mexico, and they went on outings to San Francisco. They moved to Modesto in 2008.

Perez said diabetes took a toll on her husband’s health. He suffered a heart attack and died from pneumonia in 2009.

Modi told The Bee that the Perez family could use financial assistance to pay for caregivers, utilities or other needs. Encouraging words and holiday gestures also would give them some smiles and happiness, the doctor said.

“They were given a bum deal, but my sons are good people,” Teresa Perez said. “It’s hard to watch them suffer. I try to stay as positive as I possibly can with them.”

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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