SHU Athletic Trainer Competes Against His Biggest Foe

News Story: April 30, 2007

Throwing the pigskin around in the fall, swinging for the fences in the spring, and lacing up his sneakers for a game of hoops in the hot summer sun, Leo Katsetos’ calendar was filled with sporting events year-round as a teenager growing up in Virginia. Now 30, Katsetos still stays fit, lifting weights while working with basketball players and other athletes as associate head athletic trainer and a clinical instructor at Sacred Heart University.

“I like helping athletes get better and back on their feet,” Katsetos said. “I like the people I work with and working with athletic teams, and the athletic environment. I like being around sports.”

Despite living a healthy lifestyle, Katsetos began to experience mysterious symptoms in the fall of 2003.

“I was getting numbness and tingling in both legs, like when your foot goes to sleep,” he recalled. “Being a trainer, I tried to diagnose myself. I thought it was a herniated disc.”

After a visit to an orthopedist and an MRI of his spine yielded no answers, a neurologist gave Katsetos some bad news. An MRI of Katsetos’ brain led to a December of 2003 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).  “My aunt had already been diagnosed with MS,” Katsetos said. “But I never looked into it and didn’t know much about it.”

Katsetos immersed himself in books and articles for months, while researching the disease. “I learned how scary it is,” he said. “You hear some stories of people who wake up and they’re blind. I know people who were blind for two or three months, and their eyesight came back. Some people are in a wheelchair two to three months. You never know when or how it’s going to hit you.”

Katsetos said he has good days and bad days, which usually consist of fatigue or numbness and tingling in his legs. “My vision affected me initially,” he said. “When I drove to work, I closed my right eye and looked out the left to read street signs, and I always had good vision.”

Once he armed himself with knowledge about MS, Katsetos decided to fight back. He talked to more people about his condition and he formed a team, “Sacred Hearts for Hope,” for the MS Walk, an annual fundraising event held at Sherwood Island in Westport. Sacred Hearts for Hope raised close to $60,000 for MS research over the past two years, and it has raised over $20,000, so far this year.

He realizes there are many MS sufferers with worse symptoms than he has, and has dedicated his life to helping others with the incurable disease, while savoring his “good days.”

“You take life for granted until something hits you that makes you realize the little things that are so important,” he said of being diagnosed with MS. “Being focused on the present, I can appreciate what I do today. Tomorrow will definitely be here soon.”