Codi Culwell, 26 years, Paraplegic due to a car accident

Date of birth: 1980

Marital status: single

Occupation: radio presenter, college student, working towards a degree in accounting

Paraplegic following a car accident

How it happened

In 1994 my mother and I had an accident in my mother's car. When I regained consciousness in hospital I was told that two cervical vertebrae, namely C5 and C6, were broken and that I had also suffered a spinal cord injury. The vertebrae were fixed with a neck brace for four months and the doctors tried to help me retain my body functions with physiotherapy. I was 14 years old and paraplegic.

The consequence

Two weeks after the accident the numbness decreased a bit and some sensation returned. Unfortunately, that was all that happened. For the first two years I could hardly raise my arms and I had terrible problems when I wanted to lift something - even a little bit. All that despite physiotherapy and daily training exercises. To achieve improvement in my legs I used a device that lifted me up and kept me upright but I could not feel anything at all, not even one muscle.

In 1996 I had an operation and my immobility shifted downwards from the primarily affected vertebrae five and six to vertebrae six and seven. The fifth vertebra was eased which allowed me to raise my arms. This may sound absurd to a healthy person but for me being able to raise my arms meant progress. From now on I could strengthen my arm muscles with weight training. I finally regained control over my hands and grew more and more independent. But there remained one problem: my bladder and bowel did not function the way they used to even after I had a bladder operation. I was still happy because I could feel my entire body, I could feel my pants pinching, my shoes being tight or something pricking me. After all, every single annoying feeling reinforced my belief that somehow improvements could be made.

So, I began asking around. Adult stem cell treatment and its positive results were what attracted me most and I started to search the Internet for hospitals, but unfortunately to no avail. At that time, and still today, stem cell treatment is not available in the US. One day I came across the web page of Cells4Health. As I was positive that treatment with my own cells was perfect for me, I sent an e-mail with information regarding my condition and asked them for a therapy evaluation and further information on the treatment. I was given the requested information and at the same time asked to send MRI pictures, which they needed for the evaluation. After I had sent them I was anxiously waiting for an answer and once I proved eligible for the treatment I registered myself.

Stem cell treatment in December 2005

First of all bone marrow was extracted from my hipbone and subsequently the stem cells were separated from the bone marrow. These cells were re-injected directly into the spine. After the operation I was in hospital for three days. My only problem was that constant lying down made my shoulder very painful.

The result

I had more sensation than before, for example when my arms and hands, my feet or back were sweating. My abdominal muscles were stronger which not only looked good but also helped coughing when suffering from a cold. My bladder became stronger and my bowel functioned properly again. When I stood I could feel the contraction of my muscles and it became a lot easier for me to keep my balance. I could even feel more in my feet and even though that feeling was only minimal, it existed! I could feel the muscles in my bottom contracting - admittedly they were still not toned. My arm and leg muscles got stronger every day. The muscles of my upper body actually developed quite well. My entire body was in better shape to the extent that I could wash and blow-dry my own hair and shaved my legs without any help.

I now feel way better than I used to and I have become an active and confident person. I have gained much more self-confidence because my body has also become more attractive. I still receive physiotherapy every day. Each therapy session lasts for two and a half hours. However, ever since receiving the stem cell treatment, the training is not as difficult for me as it used to be. I use my walker not only for standing but also for moving forwards.

I have gained so much power and energy. I enjoy my independence, my family and having a lot of friends. Now I am aiming at graduating and finding a job. One day I would like to get married, have a baby and move somewhere warmer. I look to the future with optimism - to a future where I can walk. That is why I have decided to have a second stem cell treatment.

Second stem cell treatment in 2007

This time the cells will be injected directly via lumbar puncture. I hope this will bring me closer to achieving my goals.

My advice

If the spinal cord is not totally damaged, adult stem cell therapy can help to repair damaged spinal tissue and restore the body functions. This improves your well-being and is empowering.

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