Multiple Sclerosis is a devastating disease that completely changes the life of any patient inflicted by the disease. The disease attacks the nervous system and leaves many patients unable to walk or do basic tasks after a number of years. Patients are left with few treatment options that do not cure MS, but just slowly delay the progression of the disease. That can leave patients with little hope that their lives will get better. There is new hope for MS patients though.
One incredible new treatment that MS patients all around the world have been utilizing to fight MS is called Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation therapy. Many MS patients are unaware that this type of treatment exists and that their lives could be completely turned around by pursuing this treatment. HSCT treatment is still a relatively new treatment as it was thrust into the spotlight when a team from Northwestern University in Chicago successfully treated a patient with MS. Since then there have been a number of amazing stories where the treatment has transformed those who have been afflicted by MS. There are also a number of other stem cell therapies that have completely changed the lives of patients with MS.
Let’s take a look into these incredible patient stories and see how their lives have been changed by using stem cells to help in their fight against MS.
Wheelchair-Bound to Dancing
Roy Palmer had suffered from MS for more than a decade. His life and job were both taken away as the disease slowly ate at his nervous system. He was wheelchair-bound two years after he received his original diagnosis. Palmer was out of ideas and feared that nothing would ever get him out of his wheelchair.
But then he learned about HSCT treatment from a BBC program called “Panorama”. Another patient with MS who was also wheelchair-bound received the HSCT therapy and was able to walk again. Palmer was reignited with a new hope that he could walk again with the new treatment. His neurologist had other plans though. He told Palmer that he was not an ideal candidate for the treatment .
Palmer was discouraged, but he learned from a fellow MS patient that the same neurologist had rejected her from HSCT treatment. She was able to receive the HSCT treatment after going around the neurologist. Palmer, with the help of his general physician, was able to do the same and get scheduled for his treatment.
Palmer received his HSCT treatment back in October 2018. The treatment took place over two months where he had to remain isolated because of his weakened immune system. The most heartwarming part of Palmer’s story happened just two days after he received his stem cell injections. Palmer woke up writhing in pain with a cramp in his legs. It had been nearly 8 years since he had felt anything in his legs. His wife and daughter immediately began massaging his legs, trying to wake them up.
Palmer was able to walk into the hospital with no assistance for a followup appointment less than 3 months after he received his treatment. Palmer still suffers pain in his legs even after completing the treatment and being able to walk unaided again. He is still pursuing physiotherapy to strengthen his legs in hope that he will be completely pain free one day.
He was able to go on vacation to Turkey and walk on the beach and enjoy the water. One of Palmer’s favorite activities nowadays is to dance any chance that he can get. He is also currently volunteering as a police cadet and hopes to return to the workforce one day. The future is bright for Palmer and his family after a decade of fighting MS.
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A High Profile for MS
Selma Blair may be the most famous person ever to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her platform has made the general public more aware of the disease and potential treatment options. She has had an incredibly successful movie and television career where she starred in hit blockbusters and indie movies.
Blair has apparently had the disease for more than 15 years, even though she was diagnosed in August 2018. She struggled to get the disease diagnosed as she said that doctors did not take her symptoms seriously. Blair condition continued to worsen through the middle of July 2019. Her worsening condition must have pushed her to seek other treatment options.
At the end of July 2019, Blair revealed via Instagram that she was going through HSCT treatment in order to address her MS symptoms. She finished her treatment sometime in August 2019. Giving this treatment this type of platform could be extremely beneficial for MS patients who were currently unaware that the treatment existed.
Blair is still recovering from the effects of chemotherapy and will be recovering for a few more months as her immune system rebounds. Blair did post on Instagram that she can walk much better since receiving the HSCT treatment. She will keep going to physical therapy to improve her physical symptoms and Keep a lookout for her posts on Instagram to see how Blair continues to rebound from the HSCT therapy.
Back on the Football Field
Sam Harrell is a legendary Texas high school football head coach who has won three state championships during his coaching career at the same high school. Harrell was playing tennis back in 2005 when he lost vision in one of his eyes. He chalked it up to old age and did not think anything of it. Then it happened again. He went to the doctor and received the multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
His body slowly deteriorated over the next five years where he had to eventually stop coaching. Even after he retired from coaching, his symptoms only got worse. He talked with a golf coach who had MS who had received stem cells to combat the disease.
Harrell was able to travel to Panama to receive five stem cell treatments in order to treat his MS. The first couple of treatments did not have a huge effect on his symptoms. But, the rest of his treatments improved his symptoms drastically. The stem cell treatments have worked so well that Harrell does not even notice any of his symptoms that used to cripple him.
Harrell has been able to return to coaching after his stem cell treatments. He first returned to coaching in 2014 as an offensive coordinator for a handful of different teams. Then the head coach at his old high school quit and he took up the job to the joy of the community and the school.
He still regularly fields calls from other patients who are suffering from MS and gives them support and recommendations. The MS community supported Harrel through so much that he thought he owed it to anyone going through a similar situation.
An Alaskan Cure
Amanda Loy was diagnosed at the age of 27 in 2007, but she said she had symptoms for more than 2 years before that. Her MS progressed so quickly that by the time she was just 28, she could no longer work a full-time job. She was afraid to even carry her son in her arms over fears that she would fall or experience intense symptoms.
Loy first heard about HSCT therapy in an Alaskan hospital. The trial she reached out to was originally full, but there was another clinical trial taking place in Chicago. She was evaluated and approved for the clinical trial. Loy was first assigned to the group that only received drug therapy and not HSCT therapy. After her MS condition continued to worsen, the medical group at Northwestern University decided to give her the HSCT therapy.
Right after the treatment she noticed that her MS-related bladder symptoms had vanished. Even the temporary menopause she experienced as a side effect of the chemotherapy went away quickly and her fertility was not affected at all. In the first year after receiving her treatment she slowly stopped taking her medications one-by-one as her condition slowly improved.
There was little things that she noticed was that she did not have to sit down to get dressed. A small moment in most people’s day-to-day lives, but for Loy it meant everything. It has been seven years since Loy has experienced any MS symptoms thanks to the treatment that she received. Loy is actually looking to complete her first marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.
From MS to Trick-or-Treating
Jodi Jackson was a single mom of three that barely had time to even think about contracting a life-changing illness. Life had other plans though as Jackson began experiencing numbness in her leg, slurring of her speech, and muscular pain. She was then diagnosed with an aggressive form of MS. Doctors told her she was going to be in a wheelchair in less than a year and that she would die within a decade.
Her therapy options were limited as she had an underlying blood condition that prevented her from using regular MS therapies. Jackson decided to try the HSCT treatment that is offered at the London Bridge Hospital. The therapy was painful as Jackson suffered severe hallucinations, nausea, burning pain, and mouth ulcers from side effects of the chemotherapy. But, the treatment was a complete success for Jackson and her family.
Less than 2 days after she finished her treatment, she was out with her kids trick-or-treating for Halloween. Life has largely returned to normal. Jackson has been attending spinning classes at her gym three times each week. She even has plans to run a marathon when her body is up for it.
Jackson is shocked that the treatment is not more readily available yet as it has greatly improved her quality of life. She wants to give other MS patients who are suffering the same chance that she has had. In the next decade it looks likely that the treatment will be available to more patients.
The overall timeline of her first diagnosis to her cure is absolutely incredible. She was diagnosed and then within six months she was completely cured of her symptoms. There may not be anyone on the face of the planet who has been diagnosed with MS and cured within six months. Her story gives patients all over the world diagnosed with MS hope that they can return to normal lives.
Diagnosed with MS at 20
Ivy Marcucci was a normal 20-year-old attending college when one night she was watching a movie with her family. Her father noticed her eyes were not not moving in tandem. She was quickly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after a quick emergency room visit. Her scans indicated that she had the disease since she was 17 years old and that she would need treatment to stop the disease from progressing any further.
At first Northwestern University was not sure that Marcucci would not be a good candidate for HSCT treatment. After reviewing her scans and talking with her more they saw that her symptoms were not indicative of her actual MS state. They decided that she needed the treatment as soon as possible so her condition would not deteriorate any more.
Sadly, her parents had to refinance their house in order to raise the funds necessary for the $125,000 procedure. Her medical insurance would not cover the therapy, which is a complete tragedy. The insurance company argued that the procedure was experimental and was not medical necessary.
Her treatment was a 14-day hospital stay that included 4 days of chemotherapy. She took inspiration from Selma Blair while she was completing her treatment. Blair was actually receiving treatment at the same time she was and that helped her get through her hospital stay.
Marcucci is feeling better everyday since her treatment was completed. She is taking a semester off from college to focus on her recovery, but she plans to return to school in January 2020. She is currently doing yoga and helping others who are going through the same procedure that she just finished going through. One of her long term goals is to become a certified yoga teacher so she can teach classes for people with chronic illnesses. She hopes to become a key support person that anyone with a chronic illness can reach out to.
8 Years Symptom Free
Barry Gourdy was the typical run-of-the-mill business man who would gladly work overtime and then head to the golf course or hockey rink with his buddies. His entire world was put to a screeching halt when he was diagnosed with MS. He was diagnosed all the way back in May of 1995. His MS symptoms slowly progressed for the next few years, as he used typical medications and steroid injections to address the disease.
But then he discovered a clinical trial for stem cell transplant therapy in 2001.He was able to convince the head of the clinical trial to accept his case for a new clinical study that would take place in 2003. On July 1st 2003, Gourdy received an adult stem cell transplant. He stayed in the Chicago area for another month after that for monitoring. He went back to work in September of 2003 and he has been symptom free ever since.
Incredibly, Gourdy has been completely symptom free for more than 8 years and that was back in 2012. There have been no updates since 2012, but it is safe to assume that Gourdy is living his best life and still enjoying ice hockey golf.
Needless to say there are plenty of success stories of patients being treated for multiple sclerosis with Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation therapy. Talk to your healthcare professional about pursuing this form of aggressive therapy for MS. There are other forms of stem cell therapy that could also be useful depending on the severity and type of MS that you are diagnosed with.
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