Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy
My name is Rusty Leech and I have been a paraplegic for nearly ten years. I will undergo embryonic stem cell injections in India this winter. My wife Kathy and I have researched, studied and debated this incredible treatment of spinal cord injured individuals like myself. Those treated have shown radical success with regard to regaining bladder/bowel function, sensations, and muscle growth. I have never given up finding some type of medical advancement for spinal cord injuries, but for the first time, I truly have hope.
I wrecked my ATV on September 13, 1998 during a hunting trip. After stays in St. Mary’s Hospital and Craig Rehabilitation Hospital, I emerged as a complete T-10 paraplegic, with no movement below my 10th thoracicvertebrae. My driving force to get through the recovery and rehab process was to get back to my family and help provide for them anyway possible. My job with Xcel Energy was at the Cameo Power Plant, outside Palisade, CO. I was a Control Specialist in charge of running the plant from the control room. During my rehab, my boss Chuck Hogue said Xcel wanted me back if I was able to do the job and with a specialized, standing wheelchair I was able to resume my job full time in April 1999.Over the next 4 years I worked my job and tried to pursue some of my old hobbies. Before the accident I was an avid runner, played softball, skied, played golf, and was a passionate hunter. I was able to resumehunting with help from my family, harvesting elk, mule deer, and antelope with a variety of methods: bow hunting, muzzle loading, and with a rifle. I didn’t have the drive or inclination to try other hobbies even though there were ways for me to participate in some of these other sports. In October of 2002 I made the decision to take a disability through Xcel Energy because I could no longer work the rotating shifts that my job entailed. Once again, I was retained for my knowledge and expertise of the plant. I work part time, 4 hours per day helping produce the necessary reports for the plant.From the time I was released from the hospitals I have researched, investigated, and studied possible therapies for spinal cord injuries, hoping one day there would be a break-through. In a July 2007 PN (Paraplegia News) Magazine article, there was a therapy touted to be very exciting by the investigating writer. The program was from New Delhi, India, and utilized embryonic stem cells to treat several types ofafflictions and spinal cord injuries. Dr. Geeta Shroff, a vitro infertilization expert, had developed a therapy where patients were injected with stem cells; there were no side effects from the injections, and the patients all showed improvements from their previous conditions. In researching Dr. Shroff, and her program, I discovered one of her patients posting a blog on the Internet of her treatments by Dr. Shroff, the patient’s name is Amanda Boxtel and she is a T-12 complete paraplegic. Amanda is a person Kathy and I had met through Colorado DiscoverAbility so we knew of her condition before she went to India for treatments and her reports of increased function were incredible. We started e-mailing Amanda and Dr. Shroff for more information, educating ourselves of this amazing therapy. When Amanda arrived back in the United States we made plans to travel to Aspen, CO to meet with her. Amanda gave us more details about Dr. Shroff’s program and put on a demonstration of her newly-acquired function, which absolutely blew our minds. Amanda transferred unto the floor and proceeded to crawl forward and backwards, picking up each of her knees with each stride. She then lay on her back and crossed either leg over the other. This was incredible for a paraplegic having “no movement below her hips” to be able to do. This reinforced the importance of becoming a part of this program.After sending Dr. Shroff medical records and the MRI’s of my spine, I was accepted into the program. We’ve applied for and been granted visas to go to India for 2 months of stem cell therapy and the associated physical therapy that goes with it. Embryonic stem cells will be injected intravenously, intramuscularly, and directly into the lesion in my spine where I was injured. After the injections, I will undergo daily physical therapy to re-establish the nerve pathways from my brain, through my spinal cord, to the muscles, and to rebuild the muscle strength in my lower body. This is not a one-time treatment; we will have to return to India at least 3 more times. The length and frequency of these trips will depend on my body’s reaction to each series of stem cell injections.To participate in Dr. Shroff’s program has given us hope that my body may regain some function lost in the accident. Kathy and I haven’t had hope; we accepted the fact that my abilities were not going to improve inthe near future. Medical science hasn’t progressed in the United States to a level where people with SCI’s can have improvement in their lives. That is reality. Fortunately, I am blessed with this opportunity to travel to India. I am nervously excited… but now have hope, faith and the belief that anything is possible.
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