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“Minister Trenta, my rare disease has been used to strike at my husband Paolo Treu “

Open letter from Admiral Treu’s wife, Paola Morandi, to the Minister of Defence, Elisabetta Trenta.

Dear Minister of Defence,

I am Paola Morandi, wife of Admiral Paolo Treu, and I feel a strong moral duty in me to publicly  clarify my situation, following the release of yet another press article that is a new and repeated time bomb to throw mud on my husband, as has always happened every time there has been air of nominations, taking advantage of the misfortune that has happened to me and at the hands of shrewd and unscrupulous people, who have no respect even for the disabled.

I come from a family of people of mirrored honesty and righteousness, with parents who have passed on to me ethical values that have always inspired and supported me, even in the most difficult moments of my life.

In 1985, during the big Tall Ships event held in Canada, where I was living, I met my husband, a young officer pilot  aboard a frigate  who was visiting Toronto during a naval campaign.

We got married a year later and gave birth to a wonderful son who will turn 30 in a few days. A boy with wide shoulders, who started his career as an engineer by asserting himself, immediately finding work thanks to his appreciated qualities.

In 1990, when my son was only one year old, we moved to Mississippi and then to North Carolina, at the Marines Air Base in Cherry Point, where my husband became a harrier pilot.

Unfortunately, in November 1991, a big bomb hit our family. I began to lose sight from my right eye because of a central spot, called a “scotoma”, which progressively widened, significantly reducing my visual  field

After an ordeal of about six months, passing from one U.S. hospital to another, through several misdiagnoses, from multiple sclerosis, to a brain tumor and a stroke, I arrived at the John Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, where I finally received the diagnosis of a rare genetic disease of the mitochondrial DnA. On that occasion Prof. Miller told me that in a very short time I would lose my sight even in my left eye and that I would go blind. Only two weeks later, the situation fell apart and I had to stop driving, gradually losing my independence. The American organizational machine immediately set to work, having me contacted by a blind social worker who assisted me for about a couple of years, directing me to the Hadley School for the Blind, the Braille course, audio books and the school for guide dogs. I was not prepared for this drama, also because I was the first to get sick with Leber’s Optical Neuropathy in my family. Unfortunately, eleven years ago, this terrible disease also affected my nephew, who at the time was only thirteen years old.

In December 1994 we returned to Italy and I had to face, together with my child, the hard life of the sailor’s wife, made up of long and exhausting distances. Fortunately, I was able to count on sensitive and generous people, who helped me to carry out my daily duties.

My general practitioner, realizing the seriousness of my disability, advised me to apply for the assistance required by law. In 1996, the ASL Commission, on the basis of objective medical evidence, assessed me as totally blind, recognising my disability allowance . A year later, well beyond the expected period of “silent consent”, I was summoned by the Commission of the Ministry of Treasury to be subjected to a further audit, after which my condition of total blindness was confirmed.

My severe disability and the repeated transfers resulting from my husband’s work have prevented me from finding a job and so I devoted myself to volunteering, giving vent to the desire to make myself useful to the community.

In 1998 we moved to Rome, where I founded the Vivi Vejo ONLUS Association  to assist the most vulnerable categories (children, elderly and disabled), as well as organizing street cleaning, conferences in schools on the environment, literary and artistic competitions for children, computer courses for the elderly, training to train companions for the blind and activities to raise awareness on the lives of the blind, as well as courses in Italian language and culture in primary and secondary schools.

Since I have been  in Italy I’ve been trying to get blind people out of their shells and for about ten years I’ve   represented patients suffering from mitochondrial eye  diseases for  Mitocon ONLUS  and in 2016 I was elected Representative of patients affected by rare eye diseases in ERN – European  Reference Network), as Epag in ERN Eye, representing patients suffering from over 900 rare eye  diseases.

My story becomes a drama in the drama when, in January 2014, I found a letter from the Carabinieri Station of La Storta asking me to introduce myself in the Station, to discover that I had been investigated for fraud such as “false blind”, on the basis of video footage that depicted me in a local market, which I have been attending for several years and that I know by heart, while I was trying some necklaces and touching jewelry, and then rejoin a friend of mine to take me home. Similar shots had been taken while I was at the Auchan supermarket, constantly accompanied by my son.

This whole affair has had shocking twists, to say the least, making me feel an obsessive fury towards me, even by institutions, such as INPS, which should facilitate the life of the disabled and not destroy it. The INPS suddenly summoned me for a follow-up visit on a hot day in August 2015, in a place that looked like a cathedral in the desert (almost all on holiday). The committee that was to examine me was made up of an oncologist (president), an ophthalmologist (my pathology is related to the optic nerve and requires a neuro ophthalmologist) and a medical beautician. The INPS had not even taken the trouble to request the participation of a representative of the Italian Blind Union and the change, at the last moment, the time of the visit, prevented me from being assisted by a neuro ophthalmologist referent in Lazio for my disease. Having violated my rights, the visit ended paradoxically with a diagnosis according to which my vision was greater than 1/20 in both eyes, with the clear objective of revoking the benefits of the disability pension and accompaniment (were also the times of the rich “production awards” for those doctors who were able to pursue this goal).

I was then sentenced to trial and subjected to a long and humiliating criminal trial for myself and my family. I was calm because, following the absurd outcome of the inspection visit of INPS, I had filed a civil lawsuit obtaining the conviction (in 2016) of this Institute, which the judge imposed the restoration of the provision of benefits, being recognized for the third time, following medical examinations, the total blindness (condition that, by law, provides for the existence of residual peripheral vision available to me). The INPS, playing on its own absentia, appealed and obtained the annulment of the aforementioned judgment. The above civil lawsuit has recently been restarted, so as to allow the active participation of the INPS, which, however, has gone back to default, but this time there is no excuse. They may have realised that it is a lost cause, but why is there so much hastiness against me?

The criminal trial went on and on April 6, 2018, after hearing the testimony of the President of the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired living in Bologna, also totally blind, who said he was able to walk alone without a stick and without a guide dog in  the chaotic station in that city and to use the phone and computer with voice synthesis, I fully refuted what the ophthalmologist of the INPS committee mentioned above had said, and I thought that they had finished massacring me and, as a result, all the blind people of Italy who follow my case and fear to do the same.

In spite of this, the morning after the main national newspapers published articles where I was referred to as “false blind”, with photos, first name and surname and of course flaunting the fact that I was the wife of Admiral Paolo Treu, whose name at that time went around the buildings for the position of Secretary General of Defense. No reference was made to the civil lawsuit I had won against INPS (which had not yet asked for an appeal) and to the statements of the President of the Italian Blind Union, which highlighted that my ability to move within areas familiar to me, was quite normal. As a result of this mud media campaign I was insulted and attacked on social networks (“I’ll tear your eyes off” etc…) and I feared the same end in real life, plunging into the deepest despair.

I recovered as I approached the day of the judgment of first instance, October 15, 2018, trusting that justice would give me back my life, not being able to give me back my sight. It was not so, the judge sentenced me to one year and four months, without even having appointed a CTU for further verification of my actual medical condition, even though I was recognize partial blindness (a condition that was also taken for granted, on the occasion of their testimony, even by those same members of the INPS commission in August 2015, who had paradoxically assessed my vision as higher than 1/20). When I read the sentence I fainted and when I recovered I began to repeat that I wanted to die, while I heard the blind people in the courtroom who were railing against the judge.

There have been many articles of solidarity that have tried to explain my illness and my blindness, from those published by the Observatory for Rare Diseases, to the Free Reporter, the Centro Sant’Alessio in Rome, the Mitochon ONLUS, the Federation Uniamo, Superando, etc..

As a representative of patients suffering from rare diseases of vision I participate in many conferences in Europe and my tragic story has traveled the world. No foreigner can understand how such a thing can happen in a so-called civilised country. For years we have been asking for a representative of the specific rare disease in the INPS Commissions and finally now that there are ERN centres also in Italy, INPS should make use of them.

Now I am fighting so that no one else should ever suffer the pillory that I had to suffer, that I had only the good fortune to have been surrounded and supported by the affection of my family and all those who know me. These are situations in which a weak and abandoned person would have committed suicide!

In a civilised country, blindness should be experienced calmly, but now there are many blind people who are aware of my situation and are terrified of doing the same thing, guilty of having acquired the autonomy of movement which, moreover, is taught them in the relevant institutions and which the institutions themselves support.

However, they have the advantage of not having to be exploited and massacred just because there is an interest in hitting one of their spouses and they do not risk being thrown into a newspaper with photos, names and surnames.

The other day, in view of the imminent appointment of the Chief of Staff of the Navy, yet another article came out that highlights my case and, however, has allowed even the most doubtful to understand that there is clearly a clear strategy to hit my husband exploiting my tragedy.

I am a woman of Faith and from this I draw my strength to move forward and fight the evil that pervades our society, even in support of the weakest, to give them courage and hope.

Despite everything that has happened to me and despite the scandals that are shaking the judiciary these days, I want to continue to believe in justice and I am confident that on appeal, thanks to the presence of 3 judges, I can finally count on absolution and thus take my life back.

For the now imminent appointment of the Chief of Staff of the Navy, may the best man win.

I know my husband well and I know that the only interest he has is to serve Italy, which he loves, and not to sit in some important chair. My husband has always had the courage to say what he thinks, in the interests of the institutions and values in which he believes, without ever worrying about his safety and his career. He never succumbed to manipulation and blackmail and I saw him bend his back only in gardening activities, never to genuflect himself. He has no political connections and has never sought them, only thinking of doing his best to contribute to the progress of this country and its beloved Navy, of which perhaps I should be jealous. It will be because of all this that someone wants to destroy him.

Dear Minister, I am sure that your sensitivity will lead you to read the last line of this long letter and I thank you for the attention you have given me, wishing you every success for the good of our beloved Italy.

Paola Morandi Treu

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