The Simple Things: Giving Thanks For Life

Published: November 23, 2006  |  Source: caringbridge.org
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lg(WCCO) Pause for a moment to ponder some of the basics of life we may take for granted — like walking or just being able to move our hands.

A couple from Eagan knows how precious such simple things can be, and they’re willing to go halfway around the world to get those abilities back.

Jay Magee and Jill Kraus had a fairy tale beginning to their lives together. They were wed in April of 2005 on a sandy ribbon of Dominican beach, but “happily ever after” soon took on a new meaning for the longtime sweet hearts.

Barely two months into their marriage, Jay, 30, had broke his neck in a diving accident. He was paralyzed, left with just with just limited use of his upper arms and no feeling from the chest down.

“I feel trapped kind of,” said Jay. “I feel stuck — kind of helpless in a sense.”

Jay and everyone who knew him refused to give up.

When a friend heard about an experimental surgery that was restoring some abilities to those with spinal cord injuries, or SCI, they jumped online to do some research. What they found was Dr. Carlos Lima in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Lima has been researching ways to use a patients own stem cells. Diagrams on Dr. Lima’s website show that the cells are taken from a small patch in the nasal cavity. They are implanted into the damaged spinal cord. The hope is to bridge healthy nerves above and below the Lesion where the damage occurred, which can be seen clearly on Jay’s MRI scans.

Jay is trying to be realistic about what the experimental procedure may do for him. Yet, it is hard not to get excited about reports that nearly all of Dr. Lima’s 100 or so patients got some sensation of feeling back. A few even claim startling results.

“I talked to a guy (from Iowa) a couple of weeks ago. He was pretty much in the same situation — level of injury that I have,” said Jay. “He’s now walking with a walker. That’s huge, you know.”

Jay’s wife Jill is also trying to temper her expectations.

“I would be really extremely satisfied and happy if he just gets his hands back. I really would,” said Jill. “If he walks, its just the biggest bonus ever. It’s like a miracle.”

Jay and Jill will travel to Portugal in January so that Jay can undergo the procedure, after that there will be months in intensive Physical Therapy at a special center in Michigan.

Dr. Lima is limiting his research to those who match very specific criteria. Patients must be 38-years-old and younger. They must be one to three years removed from their original injury and not have a lesion of a certain size. The surgery costs about $45,000 — an expense not covered by insurance.

You can follow Jay’s progress at his “Caring Bridge” Web site.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Dennis Douda
Reporting