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MS Patient Chooses China Over U.S. Due to Cost

By Frank Gray, The Journal Gazette, May 3, 2007

Mike will leave for China two weeks from today. He's not much of a gambling man, but he decided to take one this time. With the hope that his multiple sclerosis will be brought under control, he will undergo adult stem cell treatment overseas.

Riley's doctors only gave him negative opinions about the treatment abroad. But Riley was smarter than his doctors. He knew that he could become paralyzed in a few years due to his aggressive form of MS, and that he had run out of options in the United States. He couldn’t afford the treatments in America, and his insurance wouldn’t cover even one cent. His efforts helped him raise enough to make it to China though.

Riley says the worst thing that can happen is nothing; that he would be the same. So deciding to make the trip and pay the $23,000 dollars was an educated decision.

When Riley was fifteen, he suddenly went blind in one eye for an entire month. This was the first sign that MS was taking control.

However, the symptom was misdiagnosed. It was later determined that he had Relapsing-Remitting MS, an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis. He had to wait two years until July 2005, four weeks after his high school graduation, to finally learn the truth.

Giving himself regular injections, handling his insurance, fading way to get to the hospital when he needed to, all the drugs he had to take, soon proved to be to consuming. He had enrolled in Great Lakes Maritime Academy, but had to drop out.

He enrolled at IPFW when he got home. But he had to quit school once again; after one semester, he became bedridden for four weeks when his MS flared up.

Riley became depressed. With the cocktail of drugs he had to take, life became a guessing game. It took months just to figure out if a mix was working or not. Prescriptions had to be matched with others and it became frustrating. Some of the drugs were also responsible for side-effects, so he had to take even more pills to counteract the personality changes and depression among other things.

Riley was sick of having MS. He wanted a permanent solution and he knew it would be a stem cells transplant. He could have his immune system destroyed with chemotherapy by U.S. doctors and then have a stronger system re-built with stem cells. But four times in a row, his insurance rejected to fund the treatment.

Riley was out of options. He looked to a national organization called the National Transplant Assistance Fund for help. The group puts the stories of individuals online. Riley started his own fundraising campaign with the help of the NTAF. He needed to make an advance payment of $90,000 to start his treatment in the U.S., so that became his goal.

Then Riley's father asked him consider other potential treatment options.

"Are you open to other stem-cell possibilities," he asked.

Knowledge of the Chinese treatment soon made it to Riley, and he made his mind up quickly.

After leaving on May 17th, he'll stay in China for about a month. He paid $23,000 for the treatment in advance.

MS destroys the myelin sheath that insulated the nerves in the body. The procedure is designed to enable his body to replace the myelin. Years from now, he may need to repeat the procedure since it may not be a permanent fix. Only time will tell.

“It’s been medically successful in a lot of people,” Riley says. “I’m young. I have aggressive MS. I want to do everything in my power to stop it.”

“At worst, it won’t work,” he says. “I have nothing to lose except the money I’ve raised.

“If it works,” Riley says, “there’s no way I could ever keep quiet about this.”


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