Hartlepool dad Eric Thomson says ‘he is living proof’ that pioneering surgery for MS is successful.
Eric has returned home from Mexico after the pioneering MS stem cell treatment which he says has changed his life.
Just over a year ago a fundraising campaign was launched to raise the £38,650 needed to send Eric to the Riaz Clinic in Mexico to undergo treatment called Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT).
It was hoped the treatment would slow, if not stop, the progression of his Primary Progressive MS and improve mobility.
Now Eric has returned to his home in Jowitt Road and just weeks after undergoing the surgery, he says he has already felt the difference - regaining the use of his right hand and starting to walk again.
Eric, 50, said he is on the road to recovery and hoping his story will inspire hundreds of others with MS to seek treatment in Mexico.
He said: “I wasn’t expecting this level of success - if it just stopped the progression that would have been enough.
“I knew that it could take up to two years before there may be any results, so to get that result so quickly has been amazing.
“I just hope that somebody in the North East or the rest of the country who has MS, hears my story and decides to go for the treatment.
“People really need to know about this treatment as there is nothing in this country for it at all.
“The downside is the cost, but you can’t put a price on a life.
“I am absolutely delighted with the results and now say that I used to have MS.”
Eric said he has now been able to walk short distances and do the tasks many take for granted, such as dressing and washing himself, making a cup of tea and cutting up his own food.
He hopes in the weeks to come he will improve even more with the help of a physio and he plans to start the gym to build up strength.
He said: “I am taking it one day at a time, but it is great to know I am getting my independence back.
“I am back to think of my five year plan which includes going back to work one day. “I would say to other people that the earlier you go, the better effect the treatment has.
“I was diagnosed in 2011 and believe that if I had gone for the treatment straight away I would never have had to stop working.
“I am living proof it works.”
His improvement in his condition is a great boost to both him and his family, who ever since his devastating diagnosis four years ago, have been forced to watch his whole life change as symptoms progressed.
Eric was told there was no treatment in this country, but friends and family rallied around Eric to raise the full cost of the operation.
Over the course of the campaign, led by family friend Angela Crowe, various fundraising events have been held including a Calendar Girls style calendar, a Ben Nevis Trek and numerous fundraising nights.
Pioneering treatment in Mexico
Eric travelled to the clinic on June 19 with wife Joanne where he received treatment over the course of a month.
Treatment saw Eric undergo a series of tests to ensure he was fit enough for the operation and then receive bouts of chemotherapy before he finally had the stem cell transplant.
Eric flew home on July 17 to a huge welcome from family and friends who have supported him on his journey.
The family are now planning to hold an annual fundraising night for HSCT to help other MS sufferers to have the option to go abroad for treatment.
Eric said: “At the end of the treatment I had to have a Rituximab Infusion which acts as a booster for the stem cells.
“I am due to have another five of these infusions which will act as maintenance for the transplant and I am hoping the NHS will fund it, otherwise we have to raise another £5,000.”
Wife Joanne added: “It is only the beginning of a long journey, but we are delighted with the results so far and can’t thank everyone enough for helping to raise the funds to send Eric for the treatment.
“We will always be indebted to them, especially Angela, who started the campaign. They have given him his life back.”