Monday March 19th 2018

MS sufferers continue to look for out-of-country solutions

Brad Hinton has had to amass some credit card debt and his mother even decided to sell her rare art collection to get her son to Mexico in hopes he could fight his disabling disease.

Multiple sclerosis patient Brad Hinton of Dorchester travelled to Mexico in order to undergo controversial treatment for his ailment. The Dorchester man developed multiple sclerosis eight years ago, something he says has slowly stripped him of an active life.

He is one of a growing number New Brunswickers and Canadians who have opted to leave the country to seek a controversial liberation treatment that is not approved here.

“I was what I called a ‘conscious corpse,'” Hinton said. “I was basically a head that could talk a bit, think a bit, and on a good day I could still feed myself.

“The rest of me was gone.”

Now just a few weeks after the seven-day trip to Mexico where he underwent the procedure that involves opening up blocked veins, Hinton returns to New Brunswick with a message.

“There were astonishing results and a very sobering education: Canadians must go elsewhere to access a treatment that makes perfect sense,” Hinton said.

“Why did I nearly have to bankrupt myself to go to Mexico to do something that vascular surgeons could do here in a heartbeat?”

The new David Alward government has heard the cry of multiple sclerosis sufferers as it still plans to go ahead with a plan to create a $500,000 fund to help New Brunswickers afford the procedure.

The fund announced during the September election campaign remains a priority of the government even despite the death of an Ontario man who had the surgery in Costa Rica, and subsequent warnings from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the federal government.

“There’s a new intervention that has created a lot of hope for people,” said Health Minister Madeleine Dubé.

“We are asking people to ask questions and we are going to continue to ask those questions ourselves of what works, but obviously the message we want to give them is that we know there is a financial burden, we know that they are suffering a lot.”

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq spoke out against the controversial “liberation therapy” treatment after learning about the Canadian man’s death.

Asked whether Canadians should be travelling abroad for the treatment, which is not approved here, Aglukkaq advised against it.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada does not support the procedure outside the clinical trial setting.

The society warns on its website that complications stemming from the treatment could lead to heart attack, stroke, bleeding, bruising and infection.

The procedure has not yet undergone clinical trials in Canada.

Ottawa is helping to fund seven research projects related to liberation therapy and in the next few weeks an expert panel, partly made up of those researchers, will hold their first meeting to review any preliminary findings.

“I know there is a lot of controversy over it, but if I don’t try it I won’t know,” said Angela Davis, a Moncton woman who will travel to the United States on Sunday to undergo the procedure.

“I believe that it will eventually be approved in Canada, but I have to go for it now because I don’t have time on my side.

“I know it’s not a cure, but it’s hope, and that’s what I’m going with, hope.”

The Ontario man died after he developed blood clots months after the initial procedure which inserted a stent into one of the man’s veins, a procedure different from the now popular one pioneered by Italian vascular specialist Paolo Zamboni whose technique uses balloon angioplasty to widen neck veins and increase blood flow from the brain.

“Right from then I said I will not do stents,” Davis said. “I am a little anxious and nervous, but I am excited at the same time.”

Friends and family have helped Davis raise the money to pay for the procedure, a phenomenon currently taking place across the province.

People have teamed up in Riverview to help raise money for a mother of three who is currently in a debilitated state because of the illness.

There are also fundraisers currently for a Quispamsis resident and at least two northern New Brunswick residents.

“Everybody is making such a big deal about the Costa Rican situation, but my view of it is that Canadians really dropped the ball,” Hinton said. “All we want everyone to do is come to the table and talk.

“We understand everyone’s sensitivities and we also understand there is a tremendous lack of knowledge about this thing.”

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One Comment for “MS sufferers continue to look for out-of-country solutions”

  • Theresa Piercey says:

    Check out the complications from the drug therapies that are available to us and you decide which one you would chose.

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