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'My Greek doctor is my hero'

Doctors gave Despina Soumelidis three months to live, but she defeated cancer and had a baby instead

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Proud grandfather Matthaios Soumelidis, Dr Constantinos Pantos, grandmother Alexandra Soumelidis and happy mother Despina Soumelidis with Alexandra II. Photo: Kostas Deves

04 December 2017

Greek Australian nurse Despina Soumelidis saw her biggest dream come true when, after six failed IVF attempts, she decided to travel to Greece and seek medical assistance from Greek Australian gynecologist and IVF specialist, Dr Constantinos Pantos.

"It hadn't been an easy road up to that point; after being diagnosed with leukemia and surviving the cancer, all I could think of was how much I wanted to have a baby," says Despina in an interview with Neos Kosmos.

"That's when I bumped into Mary Coustas' mother, who was deeply moved by my story and suggested I got in touch with Dr Pantos," recalls Despina who took that advice and contacted the doctor's clinic in Greece straight away.

After undertaking an in vitro fertilisation procedure, the 40-year-old nurse fell pregnant.

"It was just a miracle and the best gift I had ever received.
"I owe everything to Dr Pantos who wasn't just another fertility specialist to me, but the man that looked after me as a friend and finally gifted me with my precious daughter," says Despina who attended the Hellenic Medical Tourism Conference in Melbourne last week and brought her 15-month-old daughter along to meet the doctor who brought her into this world.

Although there are thousands of other similar cases in Australia and Greece, Despina's story is certainly extraordinary.

"My life up until the day I was diagnosed with cancer was perfectly normal. I was getting ready to get married to my partner and did shiftwork at the hospital.
"Everything changed in an instant when I noticed a large bruise on my thigh. It wouldn't go away and three months later doctors urged me to investigate further.
"That's when I was diagnosed with leukemia and was given three months to live," she recalls.

"It was a very emotional time. The verdict was devastating and came as a shock to me but I decided to undertake intensive treatment. It was a long and difficult journey, but I managed to get over my sickness."

Shortly after the nightmare was over, Despina was given the all clear from her doctors.

"I was grateful for the second chance I was granted in life but I still longed to have a baby, despite the fact I was no longer with my partner.
"I was determined to be a mother and I will be forever grateful and indebted to Dr Pantos because he took the time to understand me as a person and help me make my dream come true," says Despina who is raising her daughter with the help of her mother Alexandra and father Matthaios.
"Dr Pantos is our hero. He gave us our granddaughter, the greatest gift of all and the biggest reason to smile. We wish him a life of happiness and we hope life rewards him for all the incredible work that he does," says Matthaios, who is originally from the region of Florina, northern Greece.

"Just the thought that, with my contribution, those people's lives have changed forever, fills me with joy and gratitude," says Dr Pantos while holding Despina's little girl in his arms.

"I just want to encourage all women out there who are trying to have a baby to never lose hope," says Despina.
"Because I am the real example that miracles still do happen. Mine is named Alexandra."

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