A young man who travelled to Russia for stem cell treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has said he is astounded by the results as he is able to walk around without a leg cast.
Patrick Keane (37) from Glanmire, Co Cork was diagnosed with MS in 2009. A coeliac and diabetic, he was used to dealing with health problems, but his MS resulted in a multitude of challenges which grew increasingly worse over the years.
When Patrick heard of a treatment by Dr Denis Federenko at the AA Maximov Hospital in Moscow, he decided to fundraise in the hope of a better quality of life.
Dr Federenko, who is Professor of the Department of Hematology and Cellular therapy in the AHSCT Russia, has treated more than 800 patients with autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
The hospital claims the rate of MS stabilisation of their patients is about 75-90 per cent after transplantation.
Patrick told the Neil Prendeville show on Cork’s FM that he was staggered by the tremendous outpouring of support he received when he set up a GoFundMe page for his one month of treatment in Russia.
His friends and work colleagues set up fundraisers and undertook charity events. He was also bowled over by the random generosity of strangers. One woman from Jamaica donated to his page after she read his story online.
"The treatment itself in Moscow was €45,000, but that isn't counting flights, visas, insurance and so on. I think I raised about €58,000. I was lucky enough that I got the whole lot sorted in six months.
"I did the GoFundMe in desperation. One Saturday morning at about three o'clock, I woke up in so much pain and agony. I was going through a bad stage.
It was mind-blowing. People I didn't even know donated.
"I thought if this works brilliant if not else what else am I going do? It just catapulted. It was mind-blowing. People I didn't even know donated."
Patrick is delighted with the outcome of the treatment. While he still needs a crutch to walk, he said his mobility has improved significantly since the treatment.
"It was excellent. I had no side effects or complications. They are shocked at how well it went. I won't say I sailed through it. It was tough. I am only back 10 days, but I can walk in the house and I can lift my leg freely.
"Now, I won't be running marathons and I will still require a lot of physio over the next year, but it's much better. The aim of the whole procedure was to halt the illness where it is, so it doesn't progress further.
"Anything else you get from it such as movement or anything really is a bonus."
After all the stem cell stimulation injections, Patrick received four days of intensive high dosage chemotherapy, which he says was very difficult, not having the energy to open his eyelids while also being too weak to eat.
Arising out of Covid-19 restrictions, Patrick had to travel to Moscow on his own. However, he was able to stay in-touch with his family and fiancée Katie in Cork through WhatsApp.
There is a saying that 'your health is your wealth' - I didn't really realise that until I was going through the whole lot.
Patrick was hugely impressed with the hospital in Moscow which he says was "as clean as a whistle", adding he was in isolation for 15 days.
"I couldn't fault the hospital staff and doctors in any way. They were fantastic. If Covid wasn't a factor I could have done a city tour in the first two or three days when they were testing me.
"There is a saying that 'your health is your wealth' - I didn't really realise that until I was going through the whole lot.
"I am not a holy person, but I said prayers. I didn't know who I was praying to. [MS] makes you look at everything differently," he said.
"Something as simple as putting on your pair of socks or putting one foot in front of the other, chronic fatigue, brain fog, mobility issues - any part of your body can be affected by MS," he added.
Patrick emphasises that it is not a procedure without risks, and it is not for everyone. However, he is delighted with his progress so far.