A Valley Wimbledon champion fought for many victories, but one of his biggest battles was off the court. See how a medical breakthrough helped John Austin battle his way back from a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
Tennis has always been a part of Austin's life. In 1980 he won the mixed doubles Wimbledon championship and later went on to coach.
“I played the tour and I was teaching tennis probably eight to nine hours a day, no problem,” Austin said.
But in his early 40s, Austin noticed an hour lesson left him exhausted. He also started to have trouble with his vision and balance.
“So I was pretty much off the court, six to seven years because it was too hard to do physically,” Austin said.
It wasn't until 2006 that Austin found out he had multiple sclerosis (MS). It’s an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
“I thought I was going crazy because I felt very isolated, very alone, Austin said.
The 54-year-old wanted his life back, so he tried an FDA-approved drug called Tysabri. It's for patients with relapsing forms of MS.
“Tysabri works by preventing the immune cells that would attack the nervous system from getting out of the bloodstream,” Dr. Barry Hendin said.
Hendin is with Phoenix Neurological Associates. He said the medication is given through an IV.
“What a doctor should responsibly tell their patients is we can reduce the relapses and we can reduce the progression in many of our patients,” Hendin said.
“We cannot tell them they will get better because of the agents we're using, but in Tysabri studies, there have been a portion of patients who actually get better mentally and physically better, with better quality of life,” Hendin said.
Austin gets his treatment at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. He goes every eight weeks.
“I feel unbelievable,” Austin said. “My energy, my vision, my balance, everything is so much better.”
Austin is back on the court as director of tennis at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. And while Tysabri is doing wonders for him, he wants other MS patients to weigh all options when it comes to finding the right treatment.
“We have a room full of people and we have different symptoms, so you've got to do what's right for you,” Austin said.
Phoenix Neurological Associates
Dr. Barry Hendin
5090 N. 40th St., #250
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess-John Austin Center for Tennis 480-585-2733, www.scottsdaleprincess.com