Paralysed former gymnast insists: I will walk again

Published: January 17, 2010  |  Source: timesofmalta.com
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A gymnast who was paralysed when a lighting structure fell on her during a party in Qawra is determined that she will walk again.

Indeed, stem cell treatment she started in Moscow is already working “miraculously” for Vlada Kravchenko, who is now able to use her hips and thighs to crawl after suffering the horrific injury in 2008.

“I don’t just hope, I certainly know that I will walk again,” the 18-year-old former gymnast told The Sunday Times, explaining how the treatment will help her regain feeling and strength all the way down to her toes.

“I’ve been unable to move my legs since the accident. This feels amazing.”

The doctors at the Moscow Neuro Vita Clinic were impressed by her progress after just one visit and told her she had great potential because of her age and the fact that she began treatment only a year after she was paralysed by a lighting structure which fell on her in September 2008 at a party in Qawra.

“Some patients take 15 years to seek this treatment after their accident,” she added, optimistic that she will form part of the 10 per cent success rate.

Her mother said the recovery process had been miraculous, adding that her daughter had to train herself to walk like a child, starting from crawling and working her way up.

“We’re going to have to do it all over again, but we will manage,” she said.

Vlada was quick to add that the treatment does not work by itself. “You cannot sit down, watch TV, and expect to heal. I have to do exercises every day. Unfortunately, in Malta we don’t have the kind of rehabilitation centres you find abroad – so I have to make do with what we have.”

Vlada’s experimental stem cell treatment is expensive. Each visit will cost her around €20,000, so over a period of two years she is expecting to pay up to €150,000.

Since she began her fundraising campaign last year, she managed to raise €10,000. However, she doubled the amount by borrowing money which enabled her to spend a month in Moscow.

She is still fighting for compensation from the people responsible for the lighting structure, which Vlada needs to continue raising funds in creative ways. She is in the process of organising a charity concert, since she hopes to go back to Moscow in May.

Besides the medical fees, there are several risks involved when her bone marrow cells are extracted and placed into her damaged spinal cord to stimulate nerve reconstruction. Some scientists have argued the cells can become cancerous.

But the aspiring model said she was not concerned about the risks and her experience in Moscow was “excellent”.

“I wasn’t a blind sheep. I asked the doctors questions about everything so I was absolutely informed. The risks are very minimal compared with the results I’m getting. Besides, with every type of treatment there will always be risks, but I would do it anyway,” she said.

Vlada has established contact with an American girl with a similar but more severe injury, who is already on her ninth session of the treatment.

When she looks at how far her friend has come, Vlada is filled with hope and determination because she knows that her recovery may be even faster.

To help her campaign visit www.helpvlada.com.