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MS liberation 'a miracle' for Ottawa woman

Posted Dec 03 2010 5:05pm
OTTAWA - Hundreds of Canadians with multiple sclerosis have been flying to different countries for a controversial symptoms-alleviating breakthrough treatment that Canada will not offer. One of them, Mary-Lou Curley of Ottawa, who has just returned from Mexico, calls the procedure a "miracle."

"If you have to beg, borrow, and steal for the money to have what I had done, do it," says Curley, 56, who was first diagnosed with MS at 24.

Her affliction increasingly worsened to the stage where she's been almost completely without bodily movement for several years, confined to a wheelchair, in pain, depressed, and at the reliance of a live-in caregiver and daily home treatment by a physiotherapist.

"It's too bad I had to go all the way to Mexico to get such a simple procedure done," she said.

Curley suffered from what many MS victims have, CCSVI -- chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency -- in which veins from the head to the heart narrow, restricting or blocking the flow of blood and intensifying even more one's overwhelming fatigue, stiffness and coldness.

The procedure that Curley underwent at a hospital in Tijuana is called the liberation treatment, and its the brainchild of Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a vascular surgeon aligned with the University of Ferrera in Italy, who made the discovery while trying to come up with a new treatment for his wife's MS.

The procedure, in which the blocked veins are opened using a catheter with balloon inserted through the groin -- "I had two blockages in a vein on one side of my neck and a really bad one on the other side" -- is used in specified hospitals in Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, India, and the U.S.

But not in Canada, even though the Multiple Sclerosis Society Of Canada has an open mind on it, and is pushing for clinical trials to be conducted in this country.

With the treatment not covered by Canadian health insurance, the cost to Mary-Lou Curley and husband Dave was about $11,800, plus almost another $3,200 for travel. All the hospital and accommodation arrangements were handled by World Med Assist of California.

"The hospital was a wonderful place, and the doctors and nurses couldn't have been more thorough and attentive," said Mary-Lou. "It was a very emotional experience for me. I'd become not a very religious person. I'm Roman Catholic, but I've been mad at God for years. Because everything he gave me has been bad. I went, but I said, 'God, do whatever you want with me. If you want me to die, I don't care. I just don't care anymore.'"

But now? "It always felt like I had ice water in my veins. My feet and legs were always so cold and stiff. And painful. My feet are pink again, and warm and not so swollen. There's flexibility. The blood is flowing again.

"I have some movement in one of my arms, and my left hand. I can put my arm by my side. Before I couldn't. The pain and stiffness in my body has been alleviated. And it's easier for me to breathe.

"I told my physiotherapist I wanted to sit up by myself on the edge of the bed. I sat for about 40 minutes without back support. I haven't been able to do that for four years. I used to have a feeling of fogginess in my head. I don't have that now."

Could the medical advances to come through Zamboni's finding lead to eventual prevention of MS, or a cure?

"I'd like to think so, but that I don't know. They told me that over the next month I will notice positive changes every day. I'm not mad at God anymore. For me, it's a miracle."

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