Stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis: Sam Harrell

After his multiple sclerosis diagnosis, renowned Texas high school football coach Sam Harrell had to stop coaching. Sam discusses how, with the aid of stem cell therapy, he’s fought back. Recently, he was able to travel to Super Bowl XLV where his son Graham suited up with the Green Bay Packers as backup quarterback.

“…after my third trip to Panama in September, my walking, my balance, and my stamina all improved dramatically”

Visit Sam’s Blog: Sam In Panama

Great Day in Fort Worth for Stem Cell Team

Sam Harrell at MS Walk
Stem Cell Institute MS walking team with Sam Harrell
Saturday, March 31 was the annual MS Walk in Ft Worth. This year, thanks to the Stem Cell Institute and some of the area stem cell patients, several of us MS sufferers and stem cell patients met for the Walk. Here’s a picture of several of us who have been to Panama, or Costa Rica, for treatments – (from L – R) Richard, Carolyn, Shelley, Carla, Judi, Holly, and me.

We wanted to give the Stem Cell Institute a presence in that sea of MS victims and caregivers. I wish all of them knew that many of us in those blue t-shirts were there walking, actually completing the whole mile, even though we were once unable to do such. I wanted to grab that microphone that the organizers were using and tell all of them “There is HOPE – it doesn’t have to be what you hear from your doctors so often. It can be more than ‘Let’s keep taking this medication so you might get worse at a slower rate’ ”

I personally never heard about the possibility of actually improving when I went to good doctors here in the US – but I chose to try the Stem Cell treatment in Panama, and I walked that mile on Saturday! A year ago, six months ago, I couldn’t have done that – but after my third trip to Panama in September, my walking, my balance, and my stamina all improved dramatically. And many of those in our group on Saturday have a similar story; some results more dramatic than others, but most all of us have seen and felt the changes that give us that Hope that all of those sufferers at the Walk are looking for.


2012 Update

Sam-Harrell-Award Well, I realize there may not be many readers of my Panama blog any longer, but just in case someone does return, I wanted to post an important update.

In March 2011 when I returned from my second trip to Panama (my last blog), I soon had a MS relapse. It was the biggest setback I had experienced since my diagnosis. I spent a week in the hospital in Dallas and had numbness from my toes to my chest. When I got home, I was better – the steroids had made the numbness go down to just my lower legs, but I was practically home bound – used a walker or cane most of the time and spent most hours sitting in a chair at home – feeling like this was going to be my lifestyle for the rest of my days!

Even after going to physical therapy and doing everything I was supposed to be doing, my progress was minimal. I was fitted with a brace for my left leg to help the foot drop that was causing me to stumble. My mobility was very limited and I needed help getting most anywhere. I could not hold my new grandson unless I was sitting down, and I couldn’t walk across the room without thinking about each move.

In September of 2011 I went back to Panama for a short visit to get what Dr. Paz called a “little booster.” My mom went with me for this third trip – we stayed in the hotel by the MultiPlaza mall and had a good time since it was mom’s first trip to Panama. But the best news was what happened once we returned.

I had begun a daily log of my condition weeks before I went to Panama – mainly measuring and logging my walking and mobility – here are the exact numbers leading up to my trip and once I got back – these numbers are coming straight from my calendar log – (on a scale of 1 – 10 – how well am I’m getting around):
5,4,5,4,5,5,5,5,5+,5,(panama), 5,5+,5+,6,6,6,
7,8,6,7,7,8,7,8,8,6,6,6,7,8,7,7,8,8,8,8,8,8,7,7,7,7,8,8,8,7(end of Oct)
7+,8+8,7+,7+,7,7+,7+,8,8,7+,8,8,7+,7,7+,7,7,7+8,8+,7+,7+,8,7+,7+,7+,7,7+,7 (Dec)

I know these numbers don’t mean a great deal to you, but they are huge to me – the difference in getting around at about a 5 compared to 7 & 8 is really big – numbers don’t do it justice. My mobility is MUCH improved – I don’t need the brace any longer, I walk like a normal person until I get tired, I can stay on my feet longer, I can jump rope again, I can stand and walk with my grandson in my arms, I don’t have to think to walk from one place to another, and even Kathy sees a huge difference (she has been a little hesitant about the good of stem cells).

So I am very excited and encouraged about my improvements. I can live a fairly normal life right now. And I don’t know if it’s the stem cells that made the difference or simply God’s grace and favor, but I do know it all happened right around the 3rd trip to Panama, so the stem cells had something to do with it. As I have said numerous times before, maybe God is using the stem cells to help me just as He used the Jordan River to heal Naaman’s leprosy after he dipped in it seven times.

But I do want to say this – all of these news shows (60 Minutes, 20/20, etc) coming from the US, that keep saying there are no benefits to stem cell treatments, are only showing you what the FDA and US drug companies want them to say. They have not talked to me, or Richard Humphries, or Preston Walker or many others who have seen dramatic results – we are not healed, but our quality of life is greatly improved and many people are witnessing it. (Now that I am better and getting out, people in town constantly say, “I can’t believe how well you look and how good you are doing.”)

Don’t listen to those media shows and don’t just listen to me – come see the difference!

Thanks again to all who have helped and have been encouraging in my quest to overcome this disabling disease. I encourage all of you to take your health issues into your own hands – be pro-active. What do you have to lose? Many of you may be thinking just like I was – if I do nothing, I know where I will be in 3 years.

One last bit of information – the clinic in Panama is having good but maybe mixed results with MS treatments, but they are whipping, yes whipping, arthritis! If you have a friend or loved one who is dealing with arthritis and the doctors here have said, “your only hope of being mobile again is knee replacements and/or hip replacements”, then you owe it to your friend or yourself to call me or get in touch with the stem cell clinic. What do yo have to lose? There are no side effects or dangers to stem cell treatments. Do it today!

Stay Strong!
Sam Harrell

972 268-(edited for privacy)

*Please contact us if you would like to speak with Sam.

Sam Harrell shares son’s Super Bowl XLV moment


By Bill Jones
CBS 11/TXA 21
Sports Anchor

A little more than two years after throwing one of the most dramatic game-winning touchdown passes in college football history in Texas Tech’s last second win over Texas in 2008, Graham Harrell was on football’s biggest stage during Super Bowl week in Arlington.

As the third string quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, he was just 40 miles away from his hometown of Ennis. And his father, former Ennis Lions head coach Sam Harrell, couldn’t contain his excitement, exclaiming, “All of a sudden, they win the NFC championship, and they’re coming all the way back to Dallas!”

“After all those times I experienced with Dad through high school,” recalled Graham, “then you get to come home and be in a Super Bowl. It’s special because there’s no telling how much longer he’s going to be able to come to football games.”

That’s because 54-year old Sam Harrell has multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Diagnosed with the disease five years ago, Harrell was forced to retire from coaching last year after 16 years and three state championship seasons at Ennis High School.

“All of a sudden, you get stuck with a disease that changed your whole life really,” Sam Harrell said, “and then I started wondering, golly, what kind of dad am I going to be? What kind of granddad am I going to be? Can I even get up and play ball with them?”

Graham said the only thing tougher for his father than telling his family he had the disease was when he informed them last year that he was going to have to give up coaching.

“He loves high school football,” Graham said. “He loves football in general but high school, he feels like he can really touch and influence kids. He just has a passion for coaching high school football.”

The Harrell family is deeply rooted in the very heart of Texas high football. Sam’s father was an assistant on the legendary Gordon Wood’s coaching staff at Brownwood. Sam played quarterback at Brownwood High School in the 1970s and also became one of Wood’s assistant coaches.

After a head coaching stint at Reagan County, Harrell took over at Ennis in 1994. All three of Harrell’s sons played roles in the Lions’ three state championship seasons. The mastermind of one of the most prolific offensive attacks in Texas high school history, Sam Harrell was one of the first coaches to employ a no-huddle spread offense.

Playing for his father, Graham broke virtually every Texas high school passing record, but it’s his dad’s positive attitude while dealing with this debilitating disease that impresses him most. “He’s unbelievable,” Graham said. “A lot of times I wonder how he’s doing. I’m so far away from him. And then you talk to him, and you’d think he’s just fine.”

“You can’t imagine someone having that positive attitude having that disease,” said Highland Park football coach Randy Allen, who coached with Harrell in Brownwood. “He’s very optimistic, and he’s doing better.”

Harrell’s doing better because of stem cell transplants he underwent last summer in Panama. He’s heading back there for another round of treatments in March. Still employed as Ennis ISD’s Career and Technology Education Director, Sam says his health is much improved compared to a year ago.

“That stem cell treatment stuff is expensive, and we couldn’t afford it,” Harrell said as he walked with a slight limp on the Ennis campus last month. “The coaches across the whole state of Texas were just unbelievably kind and generous.”

“Hopefully, the stem cells will continue to help him, and he’ll be able to come as long as I play,” Graham said during Super Bowl Media Day at Cowboys Stadium. “MS can attack you in a hurry. In a couple of years, he may never be able to come to a game again, but my first year I land in a Super Bowl, and he’s able to come because it’s right here in Dallas. It’s going to be such an awesome experience.”

Not only Sam Harrell, but also Graham’s mother Kathy, and his two brothers, Zac and Clark, were at Cowboys Stadium as the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. But none in the crowd of 103,000 spectators was as happy to be there as Sam.

“It brings back memories of him playing so many games at Texas Stadium and being part of the Ennis Lions there,” Sam reflected, “and then how many great places he got play at while he was at Texas Tech and now getting to do it at the biggest stage there is. It reminds us we’re awfully blessed.”

It’s a family blessed with a faithful, positive spirit equipped to take on life’s toughest challenges, and now proud possessors of a Super Bowl ring to go alongside all that high school championship hardware.

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