A Mollymook father who flew to Panama for radical stem cell treatment says he has noticed a minor improvement to the dexterity in his fingers.
Dean Howcroft, 37, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when he was 25. The disease interferes with nerve impulses in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves and there is no known cure.
Mr Howcroft and wife Alina travelled to Panama for his first $31,500 treatment at the Stem Cell Institute in late May.
He said he was not nervous about the procedure, just excited about the “awesome opportunity” because there were not many people who had flew there for the radical treatment.
“I had basically 40 million of these (mesenchymal) stem cells in the arm. That was intravenous, then another 10 million each side, delivered in a needle just under the skin, near the pelvic region,” he said.
“You’re in there for an hour max. I didn't get any side effects or anything. Some people get flu-like symptoms, headaches and things like that and I didn't suffer any of that.”
The father of two returned to Australia on Tuesday, June 5 and said he has noticed an improvement in his fingertips when pressing buttons or pulling zippers while dressing his children.
“One small thing for me is the dexterity in my fingertips has improved. I had numbness in my fingertips, so that’s improved a little bit, but not 100 per cent,” he said.
“It’s definitely easier to dress the kids when they’re jumping around. It got a bit hard when I was losing that dexterity, doing up buttons and zippers. Even playing guitar; I noticed the other night, playing guitar was a little bit easier. It was one thing that was bugging me, I’d lose myself and just have to look [at my guitar], you lose that activity.”
Mr Howcroft praised the support he received through social media before, during and after his trip for treatment.
“We made a conscious effort to keep posting, whether people are reading it or not, I mean we got a good response,” he said.
“So we were kind of riding a wave with all these well wishes and stuff.”
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.
Mr Howcroft said walking and levels of fatigue “bugs” him at the moment and that if the treatment “improves that, I’ll be on cloud nine”.
He may return to Panama in February and the institute’s doctors will monitor his progress at three-month intervals.
Follow his story on Facebook at Dean Howcroft MS Journey or on Instagram at DHMSJourney.