Chinese treatment ‘worth risking life for’ says Hellesdon pensioner with motor neurone disease
PUBLISHED: 09:30 23 June 2015 | UPDATED: 14:35 23 June 2015
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015
A 73-year old woman with motor neurone disease who risked death to have treatment in China has said the decision has made her life worth living again.
What is stem cell treatment?
• Some stem cell treatment is permanently offered on the NHS but the list of diseases for which therapies have been shown to be beneficial is still very short, researchers say.
• The most common procedure featuring stem cells is a bone marrow transplant.
• Many treatments offered are run as trials and do not yet have the approval of health and medicine regulators.
• As the most basic building blocks of the human body, stem cells are characterised by their ability to differentiate and mature into other types of cells with specialised functions.
• Crucially, stem cells can replenish other cells, effectively acting as the body’s own automatic repair system.
• As the body develops, the number and type of stem cells changes.
• Experts say there are risks of developing short and long-term health problems as the treatment could also make the patient’s current condition harder to manage.
Carol Bell, of Westwood Drive, Hellesdon, braved an 11-hour flight to have treatment featuring injections of stem cells.
Her quality of life has improved greatly since.
Before her treatment, Mrs Bell could not walk without being helped, had no feeling in the left side of her body, and could barely communicate.
Three months later she can make her own breakfast and wash herself, walk unaided, move her left leg, and can have conversations by using her hands to write messages on a board.
She said she wanted to tell her story to encourage people to try treatment abroad if there is no alternative provided by the NHS.
Mrs Bell was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December last year.
The rare disease, suffered by scientist Stephen Hawking, limits a person’s ability to speak, walk, grip, swallow, and breathe.
After her diagnosis at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Mrs Bell deteriorated quickly.
But Mrs Bell and her family were determined to keep fighting the disease and found a clinic in China which offered specialist stem cell treatment.
Stem cells can act as a repair system for the body.
The treatment Mrs Bell required is not offered by the NHS, which meant the familiy faced a £17,000 bill for the treatment.
Doctors also advised Mrs Bell she risked dying on the plane due to potential breathing difficulties she may encounter from flying at a high altitude.
But the family felt it was worth the risk.
“I thought I would not come back from China,” Mrs Bell said.
Her daughter Nikki Bell, 48, said: “Her complexion was so grey. It looked like life was leaving her.
“She would rather have died trying than not do anything.”
Thankfully Mrs Bell survived the trip and was treated for three weeks at the Wu Stem Cells Medical Centre on the outskirts of Beijing.
She was given three injections of stem cells, and received physical, occupational, and speech therapy to help her body prepare and recover.
Mrs Bell said she felt like the left side of her body had been installed with electricity after the treatment.
“I am too stubborn to die,” she said.
“I want to show other people who suffer from the disease that there ways you can live with it in as good a way as possible.”
Although motor neurone disease is a terminal condition with no known cure yet, Mrs Bell said she has a much better quality of life and more independence.
She said she encouraged anyone who had run out of treatment options in the UK to consider looking abroad.
Are you considering medical treatment abroad? Contact our health correspondent at Nicholas.firstname.lastname@example.org