Quadriplegic Looks for Improvement After Stem Cell Treatments

Published: February 28, 2007  |  Source: ksl.com
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868390LAYTON, Utah (AP) — Some miracles take a lot of work — and even more time.

After a five-week stay in a hospital in China to receive a series of five stem cell transplant injections, 23-year-old quadriplegic Kirk Green has returned home to Layton.

But the hard work has just begun for the man paralyzed from the chest down since a 2004 snowmobile accident.

“It is going to be interesting to see what happens in the months ahead,” Green said.

He is hoping to capitalize on the stem cell injections, massage, acupuncture and stretching therapy he received in China.

In a hospital in Shenzhen, Green received multiple injections of stem cell fluid into his spinal cord and Lumbar area.

The fluid, taken from blood extracted from discarded umbilical cords, is unrelated to the controversial stem cell transplants involving fluid taken from unborn human embryos.

“It’s not an aborted fetus. It is not what they are using,” Green said. He has received some criticism by e-mail after the media reported he was traveling to China to receive the stem cell transplant.

But Green offers no apologies for his desire to improve his quality of life.

The hospital in Shenzhen has performed, without any complications, more than 6,000 stem cell transplants using the umbilical cord blood, Green said.

“I’ll take 6,000-to-1 odds,” he said of the procedure he and his family carefully reviewed before spending their money.

With the first full five-week treatment, Green said, maybe he won’t be walking like he did before the snowmobile accident that broke two Vertebrae in his neck.

But walking, he said, is something every quadriplegic dreams of doing again someday, and that remains his goal.

In the meantime, the son of a west Layton farmer is satisfied with the improvements he is beginning to make.

He can lift his arms a little higher and sit a little straighter behind the steering wheel of his truck.

“I’m able to do things in Physical Therapy I wasn’t able to do before,” he said after being home just a few days. “Even a little improvement is worth it.”

Green said he feels so good, he resumed taking business classes last Thursday at the University of Phoenix. He also returned to work Monday at Layton’s E.G. King Elementary, where he teaches Spanish.

His wife, Jessi, said the trip to China seems to have “re-motivated” her husband to work harder to regain some of the mobility he lost from the accident.

But the jury is still out on whether stem cell transplants should be the recommended treatment for all spinal-cord injury patients.

Jan Black, Green’s Physical Therapist, said she is taking a wait-and-see approach before she recommends stem cell transplants to the clients being treated at Neuroworx in South Jordan.

“I think there are a lot of unknowns,” said Black, who has a master’s degree in science in physical therapy.

Black said, as Green’s physical therapist, she must remain objective. She must also factor in Green significantly increasing his physical therapy at the clinic when measuring any improvement he has experienced since his stem cell transplant.

Green has gone from attending the clinic from one or two times a week for 90 minutes a day before the transplant, she said, to four or five times a week for five to six hours a day since the transplant.

Black said the Green family members also told her it may be three to six months before some progress can be measured.

“What we hope is, is that (Green) did come back motivated and we can tap into that,” she said.

One early indicator that Green is motivated by the stem cell transplant is that he is now using a manual wheelchair, Black said. He had been using a power-assisted wheelchair, which made things easier for him.

“His attitude has probably been the biggest change,” Black said. She said Green’s attitude appears to be one of renewed interest in doing all he can to improve his condition.

“I think the motivation is to see if he can get the maximum potential from (the transplant) he received,” Black said.

Green said her unique patient will be under the watchful eye of many as he works to achieve his goals. In her 16 years of being a physical therapist, Green is her first client to receive a stem cell transplant.

His progress is being monitored by University of Utah doctoral students from the Division of Physical Therapy.

Additionally, 40 other patients with spinal-cord injuries being treated at the clinic, and their family members, are looking on with intrigue.

“It’s not a common thing right now,” she said of stem cell transplants.

Like her patients, Black is also curious.

“I’m just waiting and watching,” she said.

Green’s family is doing the same. They hope his 6,000-mile trek to China for the experimental surgery was not in vain.

“I think he has done well,” Jon Green said of his son who returned home Feb. 17.

“(Kirk) feels good about things.”

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)