When Dean Howcroft was 25 he was given the life changing diagnosis that he had Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The otherwise healthy Mollymook man was fit and active. He regularly ran, boxed and cycled. Like anyone his age, he said he felt “invincible”.
However, it was a day like any other when the first sign of the disease struck. Dean was on his motorbike when he was hit with double-vision.
After a series of doctors visits and an MRI he was told, “It looks like you have MS.”
Following the diagnosis Dean said he was in a state of shock.
The only other time he’d heard of the MS was during his primary school’s read-a-thon and he “naively” thought “older women” were the only victims of the debilitating disease.
Dean's been able to keep his disease, which interferes with nerve impulses in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, at bay for almost 13 years.
However, with two young kids, worsening symptoms and no known cure, he’s made the decision to seek radical therapy to improve his condition and prolong his life.
I want to be able to run around with the kids and play on the beach.Dean Howcroft
In May, the now 37-year-old will visit the Stem Cell Institute in Panama, where he will receive umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells. The treatment is not available here.
The therapy may stop his immune system from attacking itself and aid in the regeneration of the affected neurons.
The University of Cambridge is conducting clinical studies on stem cells treatment in MS.
Dean found out about therapy through a fellow sufferer, Melissa. She was first diagnosed when she 19 and quickly became wheelchair bound.
Now 46, Melissa visited the institute last year and nine months later she’s out of her wheelchair and playing in a weekly basketball competition.
To help Dean access the $30,000 per session treatment, of which he will need a minimum of two, his friends and family will host a fundraiser at the Ulladulla Civic Centre on Saturday, April 28.
Tickets are $100 per person and include the red carpet gala, canapes, two-course meal, entertainment by DJ Mr Meez, auctions and a raffle.
Or, donate using direct deposit - BSB: 082855 Account Number: 286925331.
More information at www.facebook.com/events/172852176673592/.