Rally Racer Turns to Stem Cell Therapy After Accident Leaves Him Paralyzed
By Victoria O'Hara, Belfast Telegraph, March 31, 2007
In a bid to change his life through controversial stem cell treatment, a paraplegic man will travel 5,000 miles to the other side of the world.
After a terrible high speed driving accident in 2002, Christopher, the rally racing father of two, was robbed of the use of both legs.
But he is now on a journey to China for stem cell treatment, with the hope of regaining the capability to walk. The treatment is not available anywhere in the UK and Christopher will be paying £35,000 for the procedure.
His uncle Cathal last night told the Belfast Telegraph: "This is a journey of hope for our Christopher."
Christopher, who is now 39-years-old, lost his legs in the Monaghan rally race. Even though he has no feeling below his waist he was still lucky. His navigator Shane, was killed in the accident.
Christopher believes that the therapy will end the constant pain he endures. The technique involves transplanting stem cells into patients after taking them from the patient’s own body, or a suitable donor.
Christopher, who is traveling today, will stay in Beijing for 5 weeks. His mother Rose will accompany him on his trip.
His uncle, Cathal, told the Belfast Telegraph that, "Christopher is looking forward to it but is a bit anxious because he going into the unknown. And the immediate family is also a bit worried because of the problems with stem cell surgery, and how people perceive it. But at this moment in time it is the only avenue open to him where he feels that he might have some type of respite from the pain.”
"Christopher is a very strong person,” added Cathal.
"For someone who has gone through what he has, and still has a hope and hunger for life, is an achievement in itself. A lot of people would have laid back and let what happened take over."
"He experiences pain all the time so, if there is something out there that may help, I think he has decided to go looking for it, rather than wait 10 or 20 years and then think, 'I should have done that',” said Cathal.
The new Rally Specialist Medical Assistance (RSMA) Fund provided a portion of the treatment fee.
The RSMA was designed for those drivers who need specialist care due to being injured in competition. The fund provides cash for treatment in those cases.
Last December, the Rally of 1,000 Entries also raised money for the procedure.
The total money raised exceeded £100,000.
"That money was got in just 10 weeks, it was amazing," said Cathal.
"There has been a massive support from the business community in Draperstown and the rally community."
A large sum of money will remain after Christopher has his procedure completed, and Cathal explained that the rest of it will go towards other rally racer who have been injured.
"We initially set out to raise the money just for Christopher, but we got a bit bolder and decided to raise more money and created a fund. We recognized there was an issue out there that wasn't being addressed.”
"And there is a lot of excitement about what we can do and how we can help other people in motorsport."