Hopes rises for Limerick stem cell patient

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

THE SLIGHTEST new movement is now a cause for hope and excitement.

THE SLIGHTEST new movement is now a cause for hope and excitement.

After receiving three weeks of stem cell treatments in China, Limerickman Brian Hogan has begun to notice small improvements in his mobility.

Three years ago Brian, 35, from Ballykeeffe, suffered severe brain damage and was left blind and partially paralysed after an unprovoked attack in Nottingham in the UK, which left him in a coma for three months.

Now, he and his family can only hope that the changes they are seeing are truly to be believed, and could be the start of a new life for Brian.

“There’s been a small improvement in his left arm, and he was never able to entwine his fingers before, which he can do now. It’s something small, but it’s something. It’s only been a week since we’ve come home, but we’re hopeful of more signs,” said his sister Nevis, who travelled with him to Beijing for treatment.

She said their attitude and mantra ever since this happened to Brian, has been “hurry up and wait”, because they can’t wait for him to be able to see and walk again, but they know they have to wait.

And yet it could be a long and anxious wait as the family have been told by doctors in Beijing that it could take six to eight months for the treatment to work.

“The doctors have said there may be improvements, but we know there’s no guarantees, even though they said there’s a lot to work with with Brian,” she said.

In a video message online to his supporters, Brian said: “We’ve had a good time in China and they’ve treated us well. The treatment is over so we just have to play the waiting game now to see what improvements I receive..it’s going to be an interesting wait.”

Over the course of his stay, Brian received stem cell infusions every second day, as well as lumbar punctures, and a number of therapies and exercises to improve his mobility.

Acupuncture therapy, largely confined to his head, and intensive physiotherapy sessions were part of the daily regime.He was based in a Beike Biotech treatment centre in Beijing, which uses stem cell products derived from umbilical cord, cord blood, and bone marrow stem cells. While the treatment continues to attract controversy and no funding was available from the Irish State as these are experimental trials, his family said anyone in their position would love to see him being able to reclaim the life he lost three years ago.

Nevis explained that the treatment is based on the patient’s specific blood type, and said they had great faith in the centre, “which has a good international reputation especially with optic nerve damage.”

“We made friends for life out there. There was just great support from everyone else, who had experienced something similar to Brian.

Nevis said while the treatment is “very exciting”, they are also “sick with nerves” in case they don’t see the results they’re hoping for.

“Brian is so positive and always tries to keep the bright side out. He still enjoys life. He never has a woe is me attitude,” she added.

After he spoke out about his condition last September through the Limerick Leader newspaper, two wealthy female donors stepped forward and donated a total of €10,000 to help with the costs of his medical treatment, after being moved by his story.

Nevis said they are grateful for “every penny” people have donated, as the treatment and other costs amounted to €40,000. In the past week, donations have continued to come in from people in Armagh, Derbyshire and Colorado.

“If this works for Brian, this is something we’ll do again. But we’ll continue with other treatments here too in the meantime. He gets physio here, but it’s nothing like he got in China. They took no prisoners, and Brian does everything he can.”

Anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so at http://helpbrian.blogspot.com