Stem cell therapy helps local stroke, MS patients

HOUGHTON – Stem cells are offering hope to many with debilitating conditions, including two Calumet residents who hope to benefit from new therapies using their own cells.

Mike Bausano suffered a stroke on Aug. 1 due to dislodged plaque that traveled to his brain, after Marquette doctors placed stints in his arteries to treat the heart attack he had on July 31.

“Neurons can’t live without oxygen too long,” Bausano said.. “A big chunk of my brain died.”

When he went home from the hospital Aug. 27, he had no control over the left side of his body, but can walk with a walker or holding on to someone after extensive physical therapy. He also did eye exercises to overcome left neglect caused by optic nerve damage.

Able to see his computer again, Bausano found Stem Genex and headed to La Jolla, California for an Aug. 4 treatment costing $15,000.

The procedure involved using stem cells harvested from belly fat that are irradiated before being returned to Bausano’s left arm, leg, lumbar region and in his nasal cavity, close to his brain.

Ideally, the stem cells will repair damaged nerve endings within six to 12 months.

“Be patient,” Bausano tells himself. “I’m optimistic (but) It takes a long time for the body to repair itself. It’s a little unnerving. I want to see results.”

So does Laura Erkkila,who’s has had multiple sclerosis for 22 years, the last 12 of which she’s spent in a wheelchair. She’s planning to head to Mexico to have stem cells harvested from her bone marrow which will be replaced after she undergoes chemotherapy to eradicate the MS from her body. The 28-day procedure is the only treatment that has shown promising results for eradicating MS. Whether or not it restores damages wrought by the disease remains to be seen.

“I won’t get any worse,” Erkkila said, hopeful about her condition for the first time. “Actually the disease will be gone. I won’t have MS anymore. It’s a phenomenal treatment.

“If you get it early enough, it could be a cure,” she said.

Erkkila will no longer have to take expensive MS drugs – one of which costs $7,000 per month. Her health insurance covered that expense, but won’t cover $55,000 procedure.

Visit Erkkila’s Go Fund Me page if you can donate to help her cover expenses. Or attend a roast beef fundraising dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Millers Recreation, featuring a 50/50 raffle, bake sale and raffle with prizes including a handmade quilt and Packer tickets.

Stem cells, the body’s “master cells,” are the precursor cells that develop into blood, brain, bones and organs, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Their promise in medicine is potentially to repair, restore, replace and regenerate cells that could then be used to treat many medical conditions and diseases, some more effectively than others.

FDA cautions consumers to make sure it’s approved the stem cell treatment under consideration or that it is being studied under a clinical investigation that has been submitted to and allowed to proceed by FDA.