Thursday January 18th 2018

MS treatment a success for woman

It’s been three weeks since Stacey Hodgins, 31, travelled to Costa Mesa, Calif., to try her luck with chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) treatment for multiple sclerosis and she still feels amazingly well.

“I’m feeling pretty awesome,” she said. “My fatigue is gone. I can shower by myself and do my hair by myself.

“I can do everything on my own.”

That newly-regained independence was slowly taken away from Hodgins after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004. In the past few months, her symptoms accelerated to the point where she couldn’t take care of herself anymore.

The CCSVI treatment widens the veins in the patient’s neck, allowing more blood flow to the brain.

It was pioneered by Italian doctor Pablo Zamboni, but has not been officially approved in Canada as a treatment for MS.

Clinics around the world are offering the treatment to people with MS, but the Canadian government is looking at clinical trials. In Alberta, the provincial government recently announced a $1 million web-based observational study.

“Why are you stalling? Why not get it done?” she said, referring to Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Health and Wellness.

“We have everything here to do it. If it was his family members that had it, I’m sure we would have it.”

Zwozdesky is in support of the web study, and has stated numerous times that more information has to be gathered about CCSVI before the government can move forward with clinical trials.

For those who have the money, the waiting lists for clinics aren’t nearly as bad as they were when the treatment first gained popularity. Hodgins didn’t wait long at all after her parents offered to fund her trip to the Synergy Clinic in California.

“It’s a really fantastic clinic. They are so professional. They let you know about everything and do follow-up care once you’ve returned home,” she said.

With travel expenses and medical expenses, the whole thing ended up costing between $13,000 and $14,000. Still, Hodgins said it was worth it.

“This is the best decision I’ve ever made towards my health and MS.”

The autoimmune disease affects the brain and spinal cord and people can experience up to 20 different symptoms, each of which vary in severity.

One of Hodgins’ symptoms had disappeared as she woke up from the procedure.

“My headaches were gone instantly. I went in with a headache and I came out without one,” she recalled.

Her neck was a little sore for a few days, but other than that, there were no negative side effects. There’s only one MS symptom that wasn’t affected by the procedure, but Hodgins knew to expect that.

“I still have the weakness, but that’s because of the damage that was done before. So now I have to go to physiotherapy three times a week so they can retrain my brain to get that leg working properly again,” she said.

Despite her personal feelings about the web study being a waste of time and money, Hodgins is participating in it.

“I did – whatever is going to help. I’m just going to keep on pushing it. I’ve already answered all the quizzes.”

It took some time for Hodgins to decide that she wanted to have the treatment, but once she did, there was no reason to hesitate. She encourages other MS patients who have the option to have CCSVI to do the same.

“I would say go for it. You have nothing to lose. The only thing you have to lose is time if you wait. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Some Canadians have undergone CCSVI treatment in Poland, Mexico and India.

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