My name is Johanna Smith, and I have Multiple Sclerosis. I was diagnosed in December of 2006, just a few weeks after receiving my Bachelor’s degree from UNLV. It started with cold sensations and numbness in my feet. It then began to travel up my legs before finally stretching to my mid stomach. In the blink of an eye, I had gone from feeling on top of the world, to having no feeling from my belly button to my toes. Scared, confused and unable to walk, I found myself hospitalized and in the care of an apathetic neurologist whose bedside manner left much to be desired. He informed me that my current condition was the product of Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that I had little to no knowledge of at the time. In his opinion, I needed to prepare myself for a life in a wheel chair, for I would more than likely never regain my ability to walk. This was devastating news that left me feeling as cold and numb as the disease itself. I eventually regained the feeling in my lower extremities as well as my ability walk, but the rollercoaster ride that is Multiple Sclerosis is a constant reminder of how quickly that can change.
Multiple Sclerosis has been labeled the “invisible disease”. This is due in large part to non-visible symptoms that many of those afflicted with this terrible disease must deal with on a daily basis. Although a person with MS may look relatively healthy to the casual observer, the disease may have taken its toll behind the scenes. It may not be until a person is amidst a “flare up” that the symptoms become more evident. This is true in my case as well. While my body may look fine outwardly, the constant MRI’s that I must endure tell a different story internally. Unfortunately the “flare ups” have become stronger and more frequent, and as a result I have been experiencing issues with balance and severe pain in my legs.
Attempts to slow down the progression of the disease through proven medications like Avonex, as well as newer ones such as Tecfedera have been futile, as they have not reacted well with me. In fact, the side effects have at times been as bad or worse than the MS itself. After exhausting all avenues with respect to standard medications, we are forced to look elsewhere for solutions. Through extensive research, and with the backing of my current neurologist, we have decided that stem cell therapy is and has been my best chance at fighting the MS and possibly repairing some of the damage. Regrettably, the stem cell therapy is not available United States outside a few limited studies that are being done. Out of the places that are available, we feel most comfortable with the facilities and the treatment that is currently provided in Panama. (http://www.cellmedicine.com/)
I completed the required application process and have been approved to undergo therapy in Panama. This procedure is not covered by insurance and therefore the cost will be 100% out-of-pocket. The cost to have this procedure done is $21,200.00 US dollars. We will also have to pay for our travel and 2 1/2 weeks stay. So from the bottom of my heart, I am asking for your help, donations, and support to get stem cell therapy in Panama. Please pass this on and spread the word. We can use all the help!
Hugs and Love,
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