Hoping for a miracle
Alesa Armstrong was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 10.
Now 41, the attractive young woman is hoping advances in stem-cell research may help her deal with one of the most annoying aspects of the illness — constant pain. Pain also affects her physically.
“Her heart will give out if she doesn’t have something done,” her mother, Susie Powers, said.
MS “is a chronic condition that affects the central nervous system, brain, spinal cord and optic nerves,” according to information on the website MSLifeLines. Some 400,000 people in the U.S. are affected, with twice as many women afflicted as men. While many patients have periods of remission, the condition is progressive and eventually affects one’s mobility.
Armstrong must use a scooter to get around and has a service dog named Kobie with her to signal for help should she fall. For safety, she has to be seated when taking showers.
“When I raise my arms, I can lose my balance,” she said. “The biggest problem is pain in my lower back, which affects walking — real spastic. I can stretch my legs sometimes but then two minutes later I can’t bend them. I have to work with it or I don’t work.”
When Armstrong learned about a friend with the illness who found relief with stem-cell therapy, she began an investigation that led her to clinics in Canada, the U.S. and foreign countries, and ultimately to StemGenex, a company that provides stem-cell treatments in California and Florida.
StemGenex was started by Rita Alexander, who found relief from fibromyalgia pain after having adult stem-cell therapy. On the company website treatments are offered for cosmetic purposes, as well as for the pain of such conditions as MS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even diabetes.
According to the StemGenex website, stem cells are taken from the patient’s own fatty tissue and then injected into the area where the disease has attacked the “myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system.” When damaged, the myelin forms scar tissue, or “sclerosis.” The unprotected nerves become a source of pain.
According to the website, “the procedure works by resetting the patient’s immune system through the use of stem cells.”
Relatively new, treatments are not totally covered by insurance. Powers seeks help from the community to cover some of the $13,900 cost of the treatment, which is scheduled for Dec. 3-5 in Delray Beach.
“We still need $11,000,” Powers said.
The doctor will meet with her and go over her history on the first day. He will extract stem cells from her fatty tissue and then reinject those cells in a place selected according to her history on the second day. On the third day, he will do a final check to make sure there are no complications, and then Armstrong will be free to go home.
She said studies have shown even more success when the treatment is followed by time in a hyperbaric chamber, such as those used to cure deep sea divers of the bends, caused by surfacing too quickly from underwater. That would be covered by her Medicare, she said.
“I should be able to feel improvement right away,” she said, “ and it can work for up to 18 months. It is not going to be a one-time treatment. There are people who had treatments two years ago and are still seeing results.”
Tax-deductible donations to help pay for Armstrong’s treatment may be sent to Southeast Stem Cell Transplant in honor of Alesa Armstrong, HelpHOPELive, 150 North Radnor Chester Road, Suite F-120, Radnor PA 19087. Credit-card contributions may be made in her name by phone to 800-642-8399.
To learn more about MS, visit www.nationalms
To learn more about StemGenex, visit www.stemgenex.com