By George Brown
A former Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Queen is out of bed and on horseback a year after having a successful liberation treatment for her debilitating multiple sclerosis.
Michelle Walsh, 38, now lives in Beechy, Sask. with her husband and young children. She was diagnosed with MS at age 18 and her health since then had been in steady decline.
The liberation treatment was performed in July 2010 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Dr. Paulo Zamboni’s controversial treatment is based on the theory that MS symptoms may be caused by a blockage in veins in the neck, draining blood from the brain. The condition is known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency or CCSVI. Doctors claim to improve blood flow to the brain with a process similar to angioplasty.
The MS Society describes multiple sclerosis as an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.
The disease attacks the myelin, a protective covering wrapped around the nerves of the central nervous system. In MS, there is a dysfunction of the immune system resulting in the body’s defense mechanisms (designed to protect against foreign intruders such as virus and bacteria) turning their attack on the body’s own tissue, namely the myelin.
“It’s been a great year,” a lively Walsh said in a telephone interview. “It’s been a long journey but it’s been a great year.”
Just before she received the treatment, she was having mobility issues and needed a walker to get around her home. She was fitted for a wheelchair but now needs only a cane.
“My expectations were I knew it wouldn’t be a cure but…I figured it would slow down the progression of my secondary progressive MS because nothing was working for me.”
“My life was going downhill fast. I was bedridden about 15 hours of every day,” she recalled.
“I really didn’t have a good outlook for the future.
She had nothing to lose by having the experimental liberation treatment.
Many MS patients suffer from venous anomalies and Walsh says she has “really crappy veins, for some reason.” Doctors discovered one vein suffered from a 95-percent blockage and that was the cause of paralysis on her right side. Her jugular vein was 50-percent blocked.
Almost immediately after have the treatment she noticed improvements in her circulation, movement in her limbs and better eyesight.
She now knows the European doctors were overly cautious with their treatment and she needed a second treatment from a doctor in California. About 15 per cent of liberation patients need a redo in a year or so.
“I don’t have the same chronic debilitating fatigue,” Walsh said. “I still get tired but it’s not the same tired it was before.
“My husband actually helped me to get back on a horse. I’ve ridden a horse again. I hadn’t been able to do that for over 10 years. “
“Before (the treatment) I was completely numb from the waist down. I couldn’t feel the horse beneath me and that was a balance issue.”
She doesn’t need the $15,000 of medications the health care system had provided for her for annually but she has a steady regimen of neuro- and physiotherapies ahead.
For Walsh, the best thing about having the liberation treatment is that her children now have their mother back.
“They need to experience the real me. I hope to God my kids don’t remember what I was like being sick and being in bed so long because we’re having so much fun together now.”
“I know I still have MS. This wasn’t a cure.”
Follow Michelle Walsh’s blog page at www.msvillagecanada.ca
You can talk to her at firstname.lastname@example.org