Date of birth: 1986
Treatment date: 4-October-2007
Release date patient story: 25-November-2008
Treatment method: Lumbar puncture, muscle injections
– Told by Preston’s mother Tammy Plevretes –
Severe brain injury at a college football game
Our son Preston was just 19, a young active college student and passionate American football player when his life got suddenly turned around. He was playing football at a visitor’s game in Pittsburgh, PA, and got hit in the head during a tackle. He was immediately unconscious and was rushed to a hospital just two blocks from the stadium that was fortunately equipped with a trauma unit.
Preston was diagnosed with a serious traumatic brain injury; intracranial pressure had caused his brain to herniate into the foramen magnum, a condition that often ends up fatal. Moreover Preston suffered 3 strokes and had a cardiac arrest. Thankfully the trauma unit was able to resuscitate him and operate on him right away.The doctors performed a decompressive craniectomy, meaning that they temporarily removed a part of Preston’s scull to relieve the severe swelling and pressure of his brain. Overall Preston remained in 5 different hospitals for over 7 months, 3 months in a medically induced coma.
Although Preston was already 19 at the time, we had placed him in a children’s hospital, not in a hospital full of stroke patients, because kids are amazing and because we thought it to be far more positive and supportive to be around teenagers and children. After his release from the hospital Preston immediately went into rehab, where the main focus was on physical, occupational and speech therapy. At that time Preston could not talk at all. He needed to be moved by three people, when attending P.T. Today Preston is still daily attending an outpatient rehab and – in addition – in the evenings and on weekends my husband and I take him to a gym to get him stronger. Around the time Preston returned home we were told to look for a permanent home and to accept hiscondition. This was never an option in our family. We started looking for further solutions to help better Preston’s situation and this is how we came across the possibility of adult stem cell therapy.
Stem cell therapy in October of 2007
When we traveled for the treatment, Preston was almost permanently relying on his wheelchair and would occasionally use a walker to move around. Everyone at the clinic was wonderful and kind; there were no issues with the language barrier. The trip was an overall terrific experience.
30 vials of bone marrow were collected from Preston’s hip bone and 11 million stem cells were extracted from the bone marrow. Although we were told that it might be painful, Preston fell asleep during the extraction of bone marrow. Dr. Etou, who treated Preston, suggested that we inject one million of the stem cells into Preston’s thighs, that were extremely tight (muscle tone) due to muscle atrophy. He regularly needed botox injections in his thighs and ankles, because the tone and pain were unbearable, so it was definitely worth the try. The remaining 10 million stem cells were reimplanted by lumbar puncture. Prior to the treatment we were told about all the possible side effects of a lumbar puncture and so we were prepared when Preston did get sick after the transplant – with a severe headache and lumbar pain. Preston was never someone to complain, but we saw that he was not well and kept him quiet and under pain medication for this day. We were able to go visit Amsterdam the following day and the remaining lumbar pain subsided after a week.
“Preston is walking now; he no longer uses the wheelchair…”
The first changes started to happen around 6 months after the stroke treatment with stem cells. Thanks to Dr. Etou’s suggestion, Preston’s painful and tone thighs are now about to normal. He no longer requires botox in his thighs, but still needs them in the ankles. His speech has improved. It was very soft before, the words came out muffled and he spoke like a typical stroke patient. He is now speaking a lot clearer, although his speech is not perfect. We have also noticed changes in his motor- and motorplanning skills, that are still slow, but improving. Preston is walking now; he no longer uses the wheelchair at all and very rarely the walker, although he still has some balance issues. Most importantly, Preston has regained an outlook on life. He knows that he will never play football again, but he would like to eventually go back to school and help other people, although his short-term memory is still a problem. His IQ tested average, which is – as we were told – quite unusual for a patient with such a severe brain injury.
I am often asked, but I am never quite sure whether it is the stem cells alone or the therapy or – most likely – the combination of the two that helped Preston make such wonderful progress. We are still working hard, never giving up on Preston. To families alike I would like to say that they should not give up on their loved ones. Brain injuries take a long time to heal and every patient and every injury is different. But the changes – may they be small, but all the more significant – are worth giving it a try. We are thinking about returning in the future for additional stem cell treatment.