Paraplegic Woman Regains Sensation in Legs
By Kent Jackson, Standard Speaker, January 3, 2007
ďI was drinking soda,Ē remembered Carmen. She said, ďI felt it turning cold on my leg,Ē when she placed the drink on her lap. Carmen had been paralyzed for two years due to an automobile accident, but after receiving experimental stem cell therapy in China, sensation has returned to her legs.
Feeling has returned to her left toe as well. She says it is a constant but comfortable burning sensation.
She could only stand wit the help of braces on her legs prior to the treatment. But now she can do much more, which is evident by her renewed ability to walk from bedroom to bedroom with the aid of a walker and her braces.
"Itís slow, but I did it," Carmen said.
Carmen traveled to China and had stem cells injected into her spinal cord at a cost of $20,000. Dr. Huang was the doctor who administered the treatment.
Since 2001, the U.S. trained Dr. Huang has been treating ALS patients and those suffering from paralysis. Although his treatment is unendorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Huang says that 70 percent of his patients have shown some improvement of their condition.
States and other countries such as China, have started stem cell research programs since the ethical debate surrounding stem cells has limited the federal funding for research in the United States.
"This country has a lot of money. China is not a rich country. Why donít they want to do it here?" Carmen asked.
China has spent about $38 million on stem cell research, but as the September 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine points out, that is only one-tenth of the $380 million the state of New Jersey has allocated for stem cells. The government of Great Britain has set aside $72.7 million, but even that pales in comparison to the $100 million that Connecticut has invested; but all are trumped by the extraordinary $3 billion that California has set aside.
As for China, the nation plans to boost its investment. And just like in other industries, China has an advantage due to one significant factor: "It is simply cheaper to produce goods in China than nearly any other country."
The Journal says that Dr. Huang has greater freedom to test treatments in China, as opposed to the United States where he trained for three years.
Carmen was treated from November 19th to December 21st, 2006. Madelyn, who is her 22 year old sister, traveled and stayed with her in a hospital room with two beds. They bought their own food during the stay.
Carmen constantly asked where they could find American food, since she didnít find the authentic Chinese appealing. She even contracted an intestinal illness from her daily meals. But regardless, the hospital was popular with out of town guests, and Carmen met two paralyzed sister from Canada who were receiving stem cell treatment their as well.
Watch video of the paralyzed sisters in China.
"You leave and another person comes," Carmen said about the hospital. "People donít want to stay like this."
Carmen received acupuncture and massages, which made her legs shake, during her physical therapy sessions at the hospital.
Carmen is excited because of the sensation she already feels in her legs, even though she was told to expect results in tow months.
Further surgery, which is something Carmen wants, will cost an additional $30,000.
"I have 14 screws in my back," she said. Dr. Huang wants to remove the screws and apply stem cells to those areas of her spine.
But it will be difficult to raise the needed funds.
The insurance protection carried by the driver of the car that injured Carmen provided $15,000, which has already been depleted. And the rest of the cost landed on her family and has been taxing to say the least.
"It was not easy to get $20,000 when you work in a factory," Carmen said of her father, Marino.
Carmen, along with her two children (ages 5 and 4), live with her father and mother, a 12-year-old sister, and young nephew in the familyís house.
The house has three stories so a chairlift had to be installed to allow Carmen to travel from one level to another. She sleeps in a second floor bedroom that her parents vacated, moving to a different bedroom on the third floor of the house.
Carmen says that she doesnít go out much, but a steep and short ramp was installed on the back door to allow her to use her wheelchair to leave the house.
Carmen says that she wants to be able to cook again, even though she still canít reach kitchen cabinets.
She also showers only once a week since moving in the cramped bathroom is difficult.
Her mother developed shoulder pain from lifting her daughter, she quit her job in order to take care of Carmen and her grandchildren. Another adult to help her daughter in the bathroom is a desperate need for Carmenís mother, and she says her own life changed forever, along with her daughterís, on October 24th, 2004.
Carmen was riding in a car with her boyfriend Franklin that day when his separated wife Angelica, followed and rammed their car at high speed. Carmen and Franklin were sent into two parked cars with a final collision.
Angelica was charged with three traffic violations, recklessly endangering another person, two counts of simple assault, and two counts of aggravated assault. A criminal or civil court judge could possibly order her to pay Carmenís medical expenses, but she has fled to the Dominican Republic according to Carmen.
Demoralized, Carmen stayed in bed crying but is now finally starting to recover and hopes for a physical recovery as well.
"Iím going to fight. I donít want to stay like this," she said. "When you fight, God sees you and he helps you out."