YOUR CELLS HELPS YOU BACK TO HEALTH
Idaho man healed with Stem Cells
Mike Brown was told he had just one year to live in April, 2006.
Now, instead of making final arrangements, the Homedale resident is devising plans to take his wife, Betty, on a cruise.
â€œEvery time you look at your wife, your kids or your grandkids, you want to be around a little longer,â€ said Mike Brown, the father of two and a grandfather to five.
And for his new outlook on life, the 64-year-old retired Morrison- Knudsen employee can thank a medical procedure that isnâ€™t even available in the United States.
In early February, Brown began a process with the trademarked name VesCell and carried out by a company called TheraVitae that entailed his own stem cells being injected into his heart to fight off his advanced heart disease.
The adult stem cell therapy still is in its infancy â€” in fact, he says he was only the 68th person to receive the treatment â€” and it wasnâ€™t covered by Brownâ€™s insurance.
â€œBut what was it going to do? Kill me?â€ asked Brown, who says he suffers from â€œend stageâ€ heart disease. â€œIâ€™m dying already.â€
Brown has had six bypass surgeries and several stents and other procedures to battle his heart disease. He also has suffered heart attacks â€” including one 11 months ago that prompted doctors to tell him that the end was near unless he had a heart transplant.
â€œWe went to Salt Lake City and Spokane looking at transplants, but for several reasons I didnâ€™t want to consider it,â€ Brown said.
â€œYears ago, I had read about stem cells and heart disease, but
my doctor (Murali N. Bathina of Idaho Cardiology Associates in Caldwell) said no clinical studies were being done in the United States.â€
While researching the stem cell option, Brown came across a man from his old stamping grounds in Eastern Oregon who had had the VesCell procedure.
â€œWe knew some of the same people,â€ Brown said of the gentleman from Athena, Ore. â€œHe had real good results and raved about it.â€
After assuring himself that the expensive proposition â€” it cost about $40,000 â€” wasnâ€™t a scam, Brown decided to go through with the process.
â€œInitially, I had some reservations, but (TheraVitae representatives) give you a lot of references and furnished me with information for my doctor,â€ Brown said.
He said the company even offered to fly his cardiologist to the Far East so he could observe the procedure.
Because the VesCell process isnâ€™t approved for the U.S., Brown and his wife, who have been married 38 years, flew to Bangkok, Thailand, for the procedure.
Traveling was nothing new for the Browns. They have traveled all through Central America both for pleasure and as part of Mikeâ€™s former job.
Once Mike Brown was in Thailand, doctors drew about a quarter of a liter of blood. The sample was flown to Israel, where Brown said the originator of the process oversaw â€œculturing â€œ of the blood, or the extraction of stem cells. After the weeklong culturing, the stem cells were flown back to Thailand, and on Feb. 7 â€” the Brownsâ€™ 38th wedding anniversary â€” doctors used a procedure similar to a balloon angioplasty to inject the stem cells into Brownâ€™s heart using a catheter via his femoral artery.
According to company literature, the stem cells injected into the patients encourage growth of new blood vessels, creating natural bypasses for weaker parts of the heart and vascular system.
â€œI noticed a difference. Maybe it was psychological, but I felt better right away,â€ Brown said. â€œMy memory was better. Betty said I got some color back.â€
Memory loss is one symptom of heart failure because of the lack of oxygen getting to the brain. But Brown also noticed a boost in his energy level.
â€œIâ€™m staying up longer at night,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m not dead tired the way I was before. I have a more positive outlook.â€
Brown said doctors told him that particular procedure has an 81 percent success rate, but neither Mike nor Betty seem to be paying attention to the numbers for signs of success.
â€œI just have a real good feeling that itâ€™s going to work, and thatâ€™s half the battle,â€ Betty said. â€œIn his day-to-day life, I can already see a difference.â€
Although doctors said results wouldnâ€™t be evident for between three weeks and six months, Betty said Mikeâ€™s daily routine is much fuller than it had been. â€œHeâ€™d get up in the morning and eat breakfast, and heâ€™d be dead tired,â€ she said. â€œGoing to Boise was a major thing.â€
While Mike said TheraVitae plans to bring the adult stem cell therapy procedure to clinics in Canada and the Bahamas in the coming years, heâ€™s pessimistic that the discipline will find its way to Americaâ€™s shores anytime soon.
â€œStem cell procedures are being done, but not with folks with advanced heart disease,â€ he said.
Mike added that adult stem cells (actually his own stem cells) are used in these procedures, not embryonic stem cells, which have created such controversy in the U.S.
While he still has a couple weeks before he first electrocardiogram since the stem cell transplant, which will be the first hard evidence of how well the procedure has worked, Brown has faith in the process.
â€œI feel optimistic about this,â€ he said, adding anyone interested in more information on his experience and the procedure can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org