A 60 MINUTES report on new multiple sclerosis stem cell therapy has thrown Wendouree mum Kathryn Johnston a potential lifeline.
Ms Johnston, who has had MS for 15 years, is hoping the treatment will help her be a more active mother to daughter Dellah, 7.
“I can’t do a great deal with my daughter now but it’s also the unknown – not knowing if I’ll wake up one day and not be able to walk,” Ms Johnston said.
The 35-year-old emergency nurse hopes to travel to Russia in August next year for the treatment, which involves extracting her stem cells, freezing them while she undergoes a strong course of chemotherapy and then replacing them.
“It gets rid of any underlying MS and rebuilds the immune system from scratch. As a general rule, it’s been about 80 per cent effective.”
Ms Johnston first noticed her MS symptoms as an active Ararat 20-year-old doing her nursing degree and about to marry her childhood sweetheart Andrew.
“I developed numbness in both hands but thought I’d just slept on them until my tummy went numb too.”
After a few months, Ms Johnston woke up and she was numb from the neck down.
Sent initially for CT scans, Ms Johnston ended up in the Royal Melbourne Hospital for a week, having MRI scans and lumbar punctures.
“The doctors thought it was probably MS but they had to wait for more symptoms to diagnose it.”
Six months later, her right leg started going weak and numb and she was officially diagnosed.
Since then, Ms Johnston has had four different types of injections and infusions but none have really worked.
“I keep relapsing and this is the last treatment I can have.”
Ms Johnston looked into a similar stem cell therapy treatment based in Sydney but she was not suitable for its strict entry criteria.
Instead, she hopes to spend six weeks in Moscow undergoing the $40,000 treatment.
Fund-raising events have been planned to help Ms Johnston fund her treatment, including a Chef’s Toolbox party held this week, Bogan Bingo in October and the Western Hotel is helping out with donations.
A Facebook page, Small Steps, New Beginnings, has been set up to follow Ms Johnston’s journey.
A bank account for donations is also in the process of being opened.