Year of birth: 1956
Marital status: Married, three daughters
Occupation: Degreed Accountant (currently engeneering planner)
Disease treated: Spinal cord injury
Further medical problems: Osteoarthritis, spondylolisthesis
A cliff-climbing accident
“I no longer need my crutches […] and I have put away the wheelchair altogether”
I was 21, a carefree college student, active in sports and other outdoor activities, but then I fell 75 feet off a cliff ontohard rock. When I woke up 5 days later at the hospital, I thought that I had been dreaming, but the nurses informed me that I had suffered a spinal cord injury. I had a compression fracture in the C-5, C-6 area. Fortunately I did not need surgery, but I had to wear a halo brace for three months. I was completely paralyzed at first; but with time, daily rehabilitation and a competitive roommate who had a similar injury, I was able to walk out of the hospital with a cane. Actually, I was a pretty high-functioning quadriplegic (an incomplete ASIA D scale).
The incident at this early age was dramatic. I realized quickly that my life would change and that I was now different. I would be treated differently. But I was able to cope and was grateful to – despite of a lot of physical restrictions – be able to get up and walk after a fall that could have easily ended fatally. I was still able to exercise and throw a ball. However, I exchanged a baseball for a golf ball. I realized how fragile and precious life was and felt blessed to have survived.
The accident left my left leg and arm paralyzed. I had an overall weakness from my neck down and I was also battling bladder incontinence and bowel constipation. Being left-handed, it was now very difficult for me to function. I now started to do many things right-handed. My walking pattern was like that of a stroke patient. But after a semester off, I went back to college and worked toward my degree in accounting, which I completed in 1979.
Over the years, during which my health deteriorated, my spine was always tense and painful. I particularly started to have significant leg weakness at the end of 2002. Perhaps due to postural deformities related to the paralysis, I had to undergo a spinal fusion of L5-S1 for a spondylolisthesis and a disconnected tailbone. After that surgery I experienced a tremendous amount of left leg pain that kept me from walking without aids. Unable to get a clear diagnosis of my problems, I was unaware that the repositioning of my back was causing the deterioration of my left hip. The leg pain continued until I had a hip replacement done in Jan. 2005. By the end of 2005, due to a joint infection, my hip had to be removed. I tried a revision but that also got infected and I had to have everything removed in Oct. 2007, without replacement. (I have since developed a Girdlestone hip with a leg length discrepancy) Ever since this surgery, I’ve had to walk with two crutches and used a wheelchair whenever leaving the house.
At this point my activities were very limited; I hardly left my house for a visit at the restaurant, shopping or social events. I was very down and discouraged. Then, I read an article in late 2007 about a woman who had undergone adult stem cell therapy after an accident and regained her ability to walk. It sparked my interest in stem cell therapy and gave me hope. Prior to deciding to go ahead with the treatment in May of 2008, I began researching my options on the internet, contacting different stem cell therapy clinics and asking a whole lot of questions.
Stem cell treatment
Shortly after I made my decision, I traveled with my wife to the clinic where first, bone marrow was extracted from my hip bone. Next, the stem cells were separated from the bone marrow in the lab. Finally, my stem cells were re-injected directly into my spinal fluid via lumbar puncture, intravenously and into the muscle. The bone marrow extraction was not painful. However, I did have a tremendous headache after the lumbar puncture, which bothered me for acouple of hours.
It has been 5 months since my stem cell therapy. My energy level and strength has improved. I no longer feel so tired. I am walking with a cane for stability due to the missing hip, but I no longer need my crutches. My wife and I have put away the wheelchair altogether! I am increasing my walking distance from month-to-month and can now walk about a quarter of a mile. This was impossible before. I am hopeful I can continue to further increase my distance. My paralyzed left hand is no longer as stiff and rigid as it was. There were times that I was not able to lay it flat on the table. My back has improved. It is much less painful, the tingling has nearly disappeared and flexibility has improved. I am no longer taking pain medication regularly; and when I do, I take much less than before. Mostly I just take Ibuprofen. I am able to enjoy my life more, now that I can leave the house and simply go places.
A lot of times people in difficult situations are looking for an instantaneous cure. To me stem cells might not be an instant cure, but they are a “cure” nonetheless. Any improvement for someone who “can’t” improve themselves alone means a lot. I do not see this treatment as a one-time therapy for me, but something I will repeat again in two or three years. Adult stem cells are definitely something major that can and will change a lot of people’s lives; today, tomorrow and in the future. As for me, I would do it again tomorrow. This therapy has made a big difference to me and my quality of life.