Helga Borgers, 75 years old, Osteomyelitis due to ulceration of ankle

Date of birth: November 18, 1934

Family: Widowed, 4 children, 11 grandchildren

Long period of suffering

I was diagnosed with rheumatism many years ago and more than 18 years ago, my right ankle had to be fused surgically. Since then I have had an ulcerated ankle with severe pain. Throughout the many years, 6 bone splitters broke out of the affected leg; the bone splitters poked painfully into the ulcerous tissue and my foot was constantly inflamed. No real diagnosis was ever made, it was blamed on my rheumatism and I was just given stronger painkillers and had to wear orthopedic boots, bacause the deformed ankle since and I walk on a tendon.My suffering can hardly be described, and the pain that I had to endure - despite the potent painkillers - robbed me of any hope. In the diary I kept after the latest hospitalization to adjust my pain medication (to morphine, steadily increased until I was up to 360 mg per day), I continuously expressed my desire to die. The leg was ulcerated up to the knee by this time. I could no longer ride a bike or drive. The hospice work that I had taken up after the death of my husband, which was very important to me, became more and more difficult until finally I had to give it up entirely. I could no longer participate in normal life, sat around helplessly in my wheelchair, and just kept falling asleep - sedated from morphine and other medication.

My children were very worried about me and brought me to Hamburg to see a specialist for osteomyelitis. A bacterial bone infection was finally diagnosed. The leg was supposed to be amputated below the knee, but my general condition was so poor and the infected area so large that none of the doctors wanted to risk surgery. Instead, as a last option, antibiotic beads were to be implanted into the leg. After this operation, I would have had to be in the wheelchair for another year and the prospects for success were not great. At the most, the treatment would only reduce my pain and the infection. By this time, the cocktail that I was taking daily for pain - at the end I was taking 360 mg of morphine, 6 x Novalgin, 2 x Sevredol and 2 x 100 mg Lyrica - was getting hard to control. An operation to implant a pain pump was called off one day before the procedure because of the ulcerous wound and I completely gave up all hope. One day later (Saturday, 6 Oct. 2007), my sister-in-law in Bergisch Gladbach sent me an article from a church newsletter about the "miracle of Cologne" - treatment with adult autologous stem cells. It sounded too good to be true, but it was our last hope and there were no other options. My liver and kidneys would not be able to handle the medication much longer and my leg was close to bursting open. Today, we view it as a "sign" from heaven.

Stem cell therapy

On 8 October 2007, my daughter called and on 10 October 2007 she drove me straight to the clinic, where stem cells were harvested from the marrow of my hipbone the same day. One week later, on 17 October 2007, the physician implanted the stem cells in several injections into the area around the wound, as the skin of my foot had by now broken open, and into the groin and both thighs.

"The ulcer and the osteomyelitis is completely healed."

In January 2008, the leg had already healed over and the pain was greatly reduced. Although my case had been considered hopeless! But as a result of the many years of dependency on medication, I was still not yet well and shortly after the stem cell therapy, I began to gradually reduce the huge amounts of pain medication I had been taking, aided by my family physician. It was a long, hard road; I lost 15 kg, had severe withdrawal symptoms, and suffered from sleep problems, chills and abdominal cramps. I truly struggled and I am very grateful for the help and support of my children and my family doctor. Since 27 July 2008 I have been off the medication. The ulcer and the osteomyelitis is completely healed. My physicians are astounded and would not believe it if they had not seen it with their own eyes. I needed new orthopedic shoes, as the ulcerous leg was 6 cm thinner after healing. The withdrawal caused my eyesight to deteriorate from 60% to 30%; eye surgery this spring with lens replacement improved my vision to 80%.

My life today

Today, I am again involved in the hospice work that has given me so much strength for over 15 years. I can drive and ride a bike again, and I take my grandchildren to the zoo and can walk for hours. I need some light pain medication only if I have been on my feet for more than 3-4 hours. My quality of life has improved tremendously and I am enjoying life again. One of my sons, who financed my stem cell therapy, recently told someone that his mother would certainly outlive him, especially after having seen her play football with her grandchildren. Shortly before the stem cell therapy was carried out, my daughter thought I had no more than two months to live because of the terrible condition I was in. I view the fact that I was able to start a new, pain free life at nearly age 75 as a sign that I am still needed a little and as a great gift. I hope that by telling my story, I can help many patients in a similar situation.

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