Two young Weyburn women recently underwent a controversial procedure, not currently practised in Canada, to help improve their lives and are now marvelling at its success.
Treena Clark, age 29, and Bonnitta Kerr, age 25, are praising the latest procedure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - the Liberation Treatment. Both women travelled to other countries to receive the procedure which opens restricted veins in the neck and upper chest, allowing for better blood flow from the brain to the body.
Clark travelled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with her mother and aunt to receive the procedure in mid-November. Since then, according to Clark, she has increased circulation in her hands and feet and the feeling back in her right leg. Proof, as far as Clark is concerned, that the treatment was well-worth the expense.
A fundraiser was held for Clark in November by members of Weyburn's CIBC branch, where Clark's mother Linda works. The fundraiser helped to cover the costs of travelling, accommodations and the procedure itself.
"This procedure was the best investment I could have made or my mom could have made in my life," said Clark.
Clark's mother was the one that researched the treatment and made the arrangements for the trip to Mexico. A decision, according to her, that was made with the help of some local MS patients who had already underwent the procedure, including Kerr.
Kerr had recommended that Clark travel to Mexico for the treatment, not India, where she travelled in July for her procedure. Kerr felt that the language barrier would not be as difficult in Mexico as it was for her and her spouse, Jason Whitrow, when they travelled to India.
Linda used the website cardioabroad.com to help make arrangements for the treatment in Mexico and she is grateful that she did.
"Treena is living proof that there is hope," said Linda.
Kerr also used a website to help her plan her trip. Safemedtrip.com set her up with the clinic in New Delhi where she received her Liberation Treatment.
A fundraiser was held for Kerr before her trip in July to help cover the cost of her trip and treatment. Kerr said that all of her symptoms have improved since her procedure.
"Muscle weakness, trouble walking, foot drops, numbness, extreme fatigue, dizziness, balance - all have improved," said Kerr.
She noted that her strength, balance, and coordination have improved significantly. So much so, that she plans to return to work as an administrative assistant very soon.
Clark had hoped that the treatment would improve her ability to walk and her poor balance but she is only seeing small improvements on this front, so far. She began physiotherapy upon returning from Mexico to help her walk and, eventually, get back to work as a waitress.
Both women are grateful to have more energy to chase after their young children. Clarke has a two-year-old son and Kerr has a 16-month-old daughter.
They each say that they feel better than they have since their diagnosis in 2007, save when they were pregnant, when their symptoms went into remission - possibly due to an increase in their bodies' circulation.
MS is an inflammatory disease of unknown origin that affects the central nervous system. It is the most common disease causing disability among young people. About 3,500 Saskatchewan people are living with MS.
Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in Canada to fund clinical trials of the Liberation Treatment, which was pioneered by Italian surgeon Dr. Paolo Zamboni. On October 19, the province announced that it would commit $5 million in funding to develop and carry out clinical trials.
The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is managing the call for proposals and the research process. SHRF's goal is to have a process in place for proceeding with clinical trials by the spring of 2011.
This was not soon enough for these young women, however. They both felt that waiting for the government to help them was an option that could affect the rest of their lives.
"The faster you can catch it, the better the results," said Clark.
Clark went ahead with her procedure, despite her cardiologists' warning, and said that she would recommend the Liberation Treatment to other MS patients.
"I would definitely recommend getting it done because it had positive results for me and if it can help someone else why not get it?"