MULTIPLE sclerosis sufferer Fiona Ward has “no regrets” about undergoing an overseas treatment for her disease last March that is not recognised in Australia.
The former police officer returned to her Bundaberg home seven months ago following an adult stem-cell treatment for multiple sclerosis in Mexico.
The treatment, known as autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplant, is not approved in Australia but according to Mrs Ward is aimed at “putting a halt” to MS.
The disease had left Mrs Ward in agonising pain and confined to a wheelchair during most of 2015. She came across the treatment online and hoped it would help her to walk again.
In March last year, Mrs Ward told The Catholic Leader she wanted to attend her children’s school play in September and to walk them to school.
Following the transplant, she said she had reached all her milestones, including walking up to the school to greet her three children but her mobility was “not good”.
“It was never meant to be a miracle cure, but I feel really good,” Mrs Ward said.
Other non-physical symptoms of MS have also improved for the Bundaberg parishioner.
“All the brain fog I had before, that has all gone for me,” Mrs Ward said.
She said prayers from her Bundaberg parish and school continued to flow for her recovery.
“The support and love from the school and parish is always there,” she said.
Her children’s prayers have opened up more conversations about God in the family home.
“My kids will often pray to God, or talk to God about my condition, so it’s opened up an extra conversation in our family,” she said.
“I’ve been reading a lot more stories on spiritual guidance as well.
“All in all I feel very positive, and so forever grateful for all the emotional support.”
Former director of the Caroline Chisholm Centre for Health Ethics Fr Kevin McGovern recommended thorough research before agreeing to undergo unknown treatments.
The Queensland priest expressed concerns about the MS stem cell transplant in Mexico as it not registered as a medically recognised trial, but hoped it had helped Mrs Ward.
“Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of us,” Fr McGovern said. “They offer hope, but it can be false hope. They provide unproven treatments which almost certainly won’t work and which can even be dangerous.”
He said other signs of bogus medicine included direct online marketing containing unverified success claims, lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence, high costs for treatment, the use of a treatment for unrelated conditions, and provision by doctors who are not specialists in the disease being treated.
In contrast, Fr McGovern said genuine medical treatments moved “slowly and cautiously” testing the theories before releasing scientific reports.
“If you are considering treatment that you discovered online, you really need to investigate carefully,” Fr McGovern said.
“Is there scientific evidence that this treatment is effective, or are there many warning signs that this treatment might be bogus?
“Always, talk with your own doctor about any of these treatments. It’s not easy when we face serious illness, but going after unproven treatments at great cost might make our situation not better but worse.”
More information about stem-cell research in Australia can be found at stemcellfoundation.net.au.