Date of birth: 1941
Marital status: divorced, four daughters (16, 34, 37, 39 years old)
Occupation: businessman, race horse trainer, opera singer, actor
Paraplegia due to horse accident
How it happened
During a stormy day in April 2004 I was riding a huge racehorse with other horses behind me. Suddenly my horse went violently to the left and started bucking. What you do in such a situation is pull the reins to bring the horse’s head down which I did but one of the reins broke and I had no control. In the blink of an eye I was thrown from the horse and landed on my head.
I was not paralysed when I arrived at hospital, but I was in terrible pain. Precious time was lost as both the hospital’s orthopaedic surgeons were on holiday. Therefore my diagnosis was delayed and the horror began. I became paraplegic without any movement or feeling in my legs and was transferred to a specialized clinic, The National Hospital for Spinal Injuries. During the first week my health deteriorated to a stage where I was clinically dead and an emergency operation was carried out to resuscitate me. At that time my children were told that I would most probably be a vegetable for the rest of my life. Being a committed Christian I knew that God through his son Jesus had brought me back from the dead. The next 14 months were painful both physically and mentally. No words can describe the constant pain but I was encouraged to try and follow a difficult physiotherapy programme.
From conventional to third-generation medicine
In the National Spinal Unit I heard other patients talk about stem cell treatment. Some of the patients were searching the Internet. Xcell-Center came up and I contacted them immediately. I looked for all the information I could find to understand what stem cells were. I learned the differences between stem cells originating from embryos and adult stem cells found in umbilical cord blood or from your own bone marrow. I opted to seek treatment via stem cells from my own bone marrow.
I spoke with the surgeons at the National Spinal Unit about stem cell treatment, but they offered little encouragement. Subsequently I found a surgeon in Scotland who gave me several tests and said he could do the procedure. He even sent me a letter with the date for the operation. But unfortunately he then told me he could not carry out the operation for insurance reasons. How I wish I could have had the operation in my own hometown of Edinburgh Finally, I contacted surgeons outside the UK but they tried hard to dissuade me and then offered me a place on their stem cell programme but it would not be available for several years. But being 63 and having lost feeling in both my legs did not mean I had lost my mind too. I was determined to go ahead with treatment and I became the first and so far the only person in the UK to be treated with stem cells taken from his own bone marrow for a spinal injury.
First stem cell treatment in December 2005
In Turkey(the location of the clinic at that time, ed.)bone marrow was taken from my hip, sent to England for isolation of the stem cells. They were then re-injected into the damaged area of my spine by a surgeon in a private hospital in Istanbul.
About three to four months later I felt heat in my right leg. For the first time in two years I could tell hot from cold. This meant an end to burning myself in hot showers and catching a chill on cold days – what a difference!
The next wonderful surprise was that all of a sudden I could move the big toe of my right foot. And then I could clench all my toes on my right foot. I could even sense slight movements in my left foot. Can you imagine how all that felt? I so appreciated feeling movement in my feet, clenching my toes and waggling my big toe. All that encouraged me tremendously and I am going to have a follow-up treatment. In my considered opinion stem cell treatment is third generation medicine. I have a third-generation cell phone – why should I stay with second-generation medicine?
What have you got to lose? If you need treatment go and have it done. It cannot do you any harm, since it are your stem cells coming from your own bone marrow.