Richard Welsh, 27 years, Paralysed after car accident

Date of birth: 1979

Marital status: married, two daughters

Occupation: mechanical engineer, insurance agent

Paralysed after car accident

How it happened

It happened in the winter of 1999. I drove my friend's car. We were going out for something to eat. Driving along a motorway we hit some ice and I lost control. After sliding 500 feet we flipped over into a ditch. Neither of us was wearing a seat belt. I ended up lying across my friend's lap unable to move. At the hospital I was diagnosed with a fracture of the C5 vertebra and a badly injured vertebral canal. The doctors told me "You will never be able to walk again."

The consequence

I was 20 years old and every part of my body below the chest was completely paralysed. But my condition did change after six weeks. I could sense movement in my legs. After three months I was capable of standing, provided that there was someone to help me. Intensive treatment including acupuncture and physiotherapy led to some progress . Although I could not keep my body in a straight position for long periods even short periods were difficult because of muscle spasms. When I was given crutches and a walking frame I finally managed to take some steps. As the right side of my body was stronger than the left , my right hand and my right leg became dominant. Although this was limited progress, it was encouraging. But every part of my body below the chest was still numb. I could not distinguish between warm and cold. And without control of my lower body I could not control my bladder or bowel functions.

As I could not go back to my old job I had to start looking for something different - a job that made allowances for my condition. I decided to go back to college and take a course in economics. After my graduation I started working for an insurance company. Today I work full-time as an insurance agent.

I also married and we have two daughters - Alawine, 3, and Vallerie, 1.

I continued to search the Internet for further treatment options and one day I came across the Cells4health website. I asked one of my doctors about autologous stem cell treatment. He gathered information and got in contact with Cells4health. He said that autologous stem cell therapy was promising and it could have positive effects.

Stem cell treatment

Bone marrow was extracted from the hipbone. The procedure proved totally pain free and lasted only about 30 to 45 minutes. After four or five days the stem cells had been isolated from the bone marrow and were injected into my spine. An operation was not necessary and the procedure took the doctors only about 20 minutes. I left the hospital a few hours later. The only thing that was a little disturbing was the headaches that started soon after stem cell injection. However, after about 24 hours the headaches were gone and, looking back, I can say that the treatment was simple, with limited risk and minor side effects.

The result

After three months my body was not as immobile as it used to be and my muscles loosened up. Four months later when I took a shower I suddenly felt the water temperature - even below my chest. I thought this was fantastic! My muscles kept loosening up more and more and the spasms became fewer and fewer. Therefore it was easier for me to use my walking frame. Now, I hardly ever use it and I walk with crutches instead. When I am at home I tend to use only one crutch. It is merely for longer distances that I need to use my wheelchair.

Unfortunately, my bladder and bowel problems have not improved. However, the progress I made with my newly regained ease of movement has encouraged me both mentally and physically I have gained both personal strength and confidence. I look at things more positively now.

Today I live a happy life with my wife and our daughters. But I am afraid of that one day my physical condition might not allow me to keep up with the girls. Oh yes, I do have a wish list for the future. I would like to regain my independence by mastering my bladder and bowel functions and being able to walk without crutches. I am dreaming of playing basketball with the girls one day and teaching them to drive.

My advice

If you are told that you will never be able to walk again - do not accept it as a final answer, be sceptical and "listen" to your body. If you happen to have the chance of autologous stem cell treatment do not let it pass you by.

Start the online Medical Treatment Evaluation