Swinging his legs in an airport chair while waiting, five-year old Brendan is becoming impatient.
His sister Tori and both of his parents have been gone for over a month and he is excited to see them.
With the hope that it would bring back the girl everyone used to know, Tori was accompanied by her parents on a journey to China to undergo stem cell therapy.
Brendan tackled his family with hugs and kisses as soon as he saw them walk off the jet ramp.
“It’s been a long trip,” said Tim, Tori’s father, tearing up. “But hopefully we’ll see some improvements.”
Now they are glad to reunite with family and friends even though they may be worn out from the 44 hours of traveling.
In an effort to reduce some of the effects of Tori’s brain damage, her treatment on the 20th floor of the Chinese clinic was composed of electronic muscle treatment, acupuncture, aggressive physical therapy, and of course stem cells.
After being trapped in a submerged vehicle that flipped into a canal in a car accident, Tori was deprived of oxygen for more than 25 minutes. It was on that day, June 19th, 2005, that Tori and her entire family’s lives completely changed. Tori’s ability to eat, speak, and her mobility were all taken away that day due to the anoxic brain injury she suffered.
Improvements in eating, better control of her body, and more successful communication were results that the family hoped for more than a month ago when discussing the stem cell treatment and trip to China. And Tori’s circumstances have already begun to improve.
“Tori’s flexibility and joint range is greatly improved,” her father Tim said in an e-mail interview from China. “Whether that is purely a result of the physical therapy or a combination of physical therapy and the stem cells is really unknown.”
She has gained greater control of her arms, particularly her right one. And other improvements include her increased mobility and ability to eat food by mouth.
“She even held a cookie and brought it to her own mouth for a bite. She definitely could not do that prior to this trip,” Tim said, adding that his wife Maria believes Tori is also more responsive and quicker to react.
Before the journey to China, that is what Maria hoped she would see.
“I hope it helps,” she said in a Jan. 5 interview. “I don’t expect a miracle. Even just something little, like eating better or communicating more.”
In the two to six-month period following the stem-cell treatment, they are hoping for even more development. Most patients see the most results during that time explained Tim.
“We want to hear meaning from her voice, perhaps a definitive ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad,’ ‘yeah’ or ‘no’,” he said. Improved muscle control is also a hope he added.
Tim said they may try a second round of hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment, and will continue the electronic muscle and acupuncture treatment, emphasizing that they wouldn’t just be waiting around for results to manifest themselves.
And if they see positive results from the first stem cell treatment, a second trip could appear on the agenda as well.
“Whether it is for the stem-cell treatment she received this time (adult stem cells taken from an umbilical cord) or for some other types that are becoming available now and that I am researching, I don’t know,” Tim said.
Maria was grateful that Tori at the very least had the opportunity to undergo the procedure.
“It was a privilege that she was able to go there and get this treatment,” she said. “There are so many people that can benefit from it. It was fortunate she was able to go.”