Adult Stem Cell Treatment Gives Once-Paralyzed Man New Lease on Life
Updated: Tuesday, October 8 2013, 11:34 AM EDT
A man who was told by doctors he would never walk again is now taking steps after a treatment in Maryland.
The 42-year-old Utah man has surprised doctors and become the face of a new treatment using "stem cells" – not "embryonic" stem cells but "adult" stem cells. The treatment is giving hope to disease-prone people.
Fifteen years ago Shawn began to feel pain, overwhelming fatigue, and his health deteriorated quickly.
"I woke up to a spinal disease called transverse myelitis," Shawn said. "It's an autoimmune disease that causes the nerve ending to my spinal cord to deteriorate."
In a little more than a year Shawn was paralyzed from the chest down. Five separate doctors told Shawn he'd never walk again. His body began failing him on many levels. About 10 years ago he suffered a lupus stroke and doctors told his family he would die that night. He survived, but was left numb to life, both physically and emotionally.
"With autoimmune, you have fatigue. Excruciating, crushing fatigue," Shawn described.
Doctor after doctor admitted defeat in treating him, until he allowed himself to become an experiment of sorts at the National Institute of Health in Maryland. Here recent research has discovered a new level of blank cells – known as stem cells – in the human body. They are taken out bone marrow and put it back into the diseased areas of the body to regrow and replace the tainted cells.
Adult stem cell treatment is showing promise in treating spinal cord injuries, heart problems, diabetes, lupus, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. But the process isn't perfect yet and recovery is still very slow.
For Shawn his stem cell treatment was six years ago. Today he's able to walk up to a half mile on the treadmill - a huge achievement considering just a few years ago the only thing he could do was wiggle his big toe a quarter of an inch. Though he still uses a wheelchair for longer distances he now works full time at Home Depot and has even started his own Lupus foundation. He's currently working on writing a book about his journey.
"I want to thrive," Shawn said. "I want to live, I want to experience, I want to have and enjoy my life.."