Saving a Leg and a Life Do We Have to Amputate?

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Saving a Leg and a Life
Do We Have to Amputate?

Helen Thomas was faced with amputation of her leg.  With peripheral arterial disease, she had almost no circulation in her lower leg and her doctor saw no other options.  Then he met Dr. Randall Franz, who was studying a new technique using a patient’s own adult stem cells to promote the growth of new blood vessels.

Helen became part of that study.  Specific stem cells were taken from her hip and injected into the problem areas in her leg where the blockages were.  The result was new blood vessels.

Helen is very grateful that she still has her leg and that she can now do the things she most wants to do.  She calls it “a miracle.”

Helen’s adult stem cells were obtained from her own bone marrow.  Other patients receive adult stem cells from other tissues of their own body or from a donor.  Some patients receive adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood, saved from the umbilical cord that is normally considered medical waste when a baby is born.

Here are some other successes:

  • Jacki Rabon, 18 years old, paralyzed in a car accident.  Treated in Portugal with adult stem cells from her nasal mucosa, she is now walking with braces.
  • Dennis Turner, treated for Parkinson’s with adult stem cells from his own brain, was able to go back to his hobby of big game photography.
  • Stephen Sprague, treated in 1997 for chronic myelogenous leukemia, with umbilical cord blood stem cells.

Don’t confuse these adult stem cells with embryonic stem cells.  Embryonic stem cells present an ethical issue because they are obtained by pulling apart a tiny human being who has been allowed to develop for about 5 days after conception.

Adult stem cells have helped thousands and thousands of patients just in the U.S.  With continued financial support these therapies will become more and more available in our country.

From Good News Western New York ( ) January/February 2011

For more information about Helen Thomas, go to

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