A Hartlepool dad suffering from an aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis needs to raise more than £30,000 for pioneering treatment which could change his life.
Four years ago sporty father of five, Eric Thomson, was given the devastating diagnosis of Primary Progressive MS - a form of MS that has no treatment in this country.
The former Camerons Brewery worker of Jowitt Road, was just 44 when he was diagnosed in July 2011.
Now aged 49 he has seen his whole life change as symptoms progress.
A keen football player and coach for Pools Youth Team, and even played at Wembley in a team made up of Camerons staff 2010.
But the once active family man had to give up the hobbies he loved as the illness took its hold.
I have nursed MS patients myself and it is a horrific disease to have.
“Eric has the most aggressive form,” his wife Joanne Thomson, a chemotherapy health assistant at University Hospital Hartlepool said.
“Over the last couple of years he has had to stop working because of trips and falls which meant he wasn’t able to do his job any more.
“He used to coach football and play himself, when he started to notice he wasn’t able to kick the ball because he didn’t have the strength.
“He was also getting pins and needles, so he went to his GP who referred him to a specialist at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
“After a few appointments they decided to an in depth lumbar puncture and MRI scan and they found it straight away.”
Doctors told the family there was nothing they could do for treatment, leaving the family with no choice, but to continue day to day life the best they can.
“I have nursed MS patients myself and it is a horrific disease to have,” Mrs Thomson said. “You don’t know what is going to happen next.”
But there is the chance of a different future for Eric, as Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantations (HSCT) abroad offer the possibility of slowing-if not stopping - the progression of his MS, and improve mobility.
“I have been browsing the internet since the day he was diagnosed and came across stem cell transplants,” Mrs Thomson said.
“Stem cell transplants here are only for cancer patients, but not for MS patients.”
Now the family hope to travel to Mexico or Russia where Eric has been accepted for treatment and is on the waiting list for the operation.
“We have been in touch with a few people in the UK who have had the operation or on the waiting list,” Mrs Thomson added.
“They say it stops progression at the least and in some cases has improved their condition as well.” This may be Eric’s last hope of recovery and should enough funds be raised in time, he is scheduled to have the operation in 2017 at the Riaz Clinic in Mexico but could also receive treatment in Russia.
The treatment will last four to six weeks and see Eric undergo tests to ensure he is fit enough for the procedure before receiving the stem cell transplant and chemotherapy lasting two weeks. He will then need a two week recovery period before flying home to the UK.
The inflammatory disease which destroys the central nervous system
MS is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes destruction of the central nervous system which is mainly found in young adults.
Two years ago Mr Thomson took part in a trial of the drug Fampyra which improved his balance and movement but it cost £200 a month.
He takes this tablet twice daily along with painkiller Gabapentin and spends most days at home, unable to go far unaided.
“People in general regard multiple sclerosis as a hidden disease and to a certain degree they are right - for the most common type is Relapsing Remitting of which 90% of MS sufferers have to endure,” he said.
Eric says he is in the 10% category, he has primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) which is not so much hidden, but more ignored.
He added: “There is nothing in this country to offer hope for anyone with PPMS and although I am on a drug called Fampyra, which does help me around the house, getting to the toilet by myself and so on, it costs about £2,500 a year.”
Then family are hoping the transplant will slow or stop the progression of his condition through the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) which involves the infusion of stem cells collected from bone marrow, blood, or umbilical cord blood, to re-establish haematopoietic function in patients whose bone marrow or immune system is damaged or defective.
Mr Thompson added: “I would like to tell other sufferers of PPMS: don’t listen to; ‘there is nothing I can do for you,’ because there is a glimmer of hope in HSCT.”
12-to-18-month deadline for cash
This pioneering treatment comes at a cost of £30,000 which Mr Thomson needs to raise in just 12 to 18 months before his condition can progress further.
So far a Go Fund Me page set up by family friend Angela Cowe has raised £1,835 towards Eric’s treatment.
The family is holding a range of fundraising events in the coming months to raise the vital funds.
Angela Crowe, fundraising coordinator, has organised a race night on September 18; a clairvoyant night on October 8; a Halloween party at the Cosmopolitan on October 30; and a Christmas fair on November 21 at the old Boys Rugby Club.
Eric’s niece Sarah Bradley, 30, has also completed a fundraising parachute jump in July; while Mrs Thomson took part in a Calendar Girls Calendar. For information on charity events visit: HSCT fundriaing for Eric Thompson on Facebook. To donate visit: http://www.gofundme.com/HSCTforEricT.