A Hartlepool dad who underwent pioneering stem cell treatment for MS says it has changed his life a year on.
Eric Thomson says the pioneering surgery he received at a specialist unit in Mexico last year has had a massive impact.
He said the operation “far surpassed what I had hoped to achieve in just its first year and I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the second year”.
He is now even think about getting back into work and is planning on a trip to the US for a bike festival.
Sitting in his home on Jowitt Road, Eric Thomson looks a changed man compared to last year.
The 51-year-old underwent pioneering stem cell surgery in the hope to slow, if not stop the progression of his Primary Progressive MS in June 2016.
Diagnosed in 2011, the former Camerons Brewery worker, was told there was no treatment in this country.
And as the effects of the illness took hold he had long given up hope of returning to work and the life he used to live.
But that all changed after wife Joanne discovered there was a treatment called a Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantations (HSCT) available abroad.
Following a fundraising campaign led by Joanne and family friend Angela Crowe, an incredible £38,650 was raised to pay for his surgery.
On June 19 last year, Eric made the journey to the Riaz Clinic with Joanne and since returning home on July 17, Eric noticed major improvements to his mobility.
He said: “I feel good and I am working towards getting back to work.
“I have seen massive improvements since the treatment. “I can cut up my own food, make a cup of tea, get in the bath myself, and even have a FitBit which tells me I do around 4,000 steps a day.
“I can also do things like the washing up and am able to drive short distances. “It is all small but significant things that mean I am regaining my independence.
“I have so much energy and want to do things now.”
He continued: “HSCT has far surpassed what I had hoped to achieve in just its first year and I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the second year.
“People who have had it say they are still finding improvements three to five years on.”
But it hasn’t just been plain sailing for Eric since the treatment, as he found he was suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia which caused him to suffer severe pain on the right side of his face for three months this year.
The illness was not caused by MS or the surgery and Eric says it will continue to come and go, but he remains positive.
He said: “From 2014 to 2016 before the treatment I was on a downward spiral, I had just had enough.
“But now I am looking forward to everything and I am even going to America next year for a bike festival!
“I can’t say anything negative about HSCT.
“Even on the day that I had the stem cell transplant, I felt a heat sensation in my hand and started clicking my fingers something I couldn’t do before.
“And everybody I know who received the treatment has seen improvements.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, but it’s a rollercoaster worth riding.
“If I could say anything to anybody who has MS is just to get it - break the bank, do anything it takes and go.
“The sooner the better.
“If I had known about it in 2011 when I was diagnosed I wouldn’t have had to give up work.”
Eric wanted to thank all those who have helped him on his journey including; GP Dr Miguel Alfonso Lasa Gallego; neurologist Dr Paul Reading; dentist Dr Alex Vizireanu; Hartlepool Haematology Unit and Phlebotomist and fundraiser Angela Crowe.
Going forward Eric and his family want to repay the kindness of the community who helped raise funds for his treatment by raising funds to help other people with MS pay for theirs.
He said: “I want to help other people with MS pay for their treatment, as a pay it forward kind of thing.
“Thanks to the treatment I feel really good and I love life now.”