MS Patient, Jason Upshaw and his wife, Michelle discuss his stem cell treatments at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama with founder and chief scientist, Neil Riordan, PhD. Jason was diagnosed with MS 21 years ago.
Jason: The very first time I came it was relapsing/remitting, and it progressed to secondary progressive, and that was the second trip that we came. I haven’t actually felt this good in years. I have no MS symptoms whatsoever, other than a bit of heat fatigue, still, but other than that, no numbness; no tingling; and I haven’t felt this good in years.
Jason: When I went the first time, it was to Costa Rica at y’all’s clinic and they had to put me on the plane in a wheelchair, and they had to transfer me between flights in a wheel chair. I couldn’t walk from here to the door without being exhausted and I still had a lot of numbness and tingling. When I got home from that trip I walked off the plane, got my own luggage, and walked out to the parking lot to the car that was waiting for us. It improved my life in one treatment.
Jason: Um, of course the numbness and tingling gradually went away, I haven’t had any numbness or tingling in years. The fatigue has gotten a lot better. A lot of it, if I’m smart, I don’t have any symptoms. I know my limits and if I push them too far… but I don’t think it’s just the MS. When you get tired, your body shuts down. I don’t blame a lot of it on MS. It’s just that when I get started, I just like to go, go, go, go. If I push it too far, I pay for it, but if I’m smart, I don’t go too far.
Dr. Riordan: You first came in August of 2008. When did you come a second time, in 2010? So, you felt the need to come back in 2010, so what were the symptoms like then?
Jason: The numbness and tingling wasn’t an issue. I could tell that I was dealing with more fatigue than I had been, so before I got down to where I was [before], I wanted to get a head start on it, so I came back. The heat was really bothering me then. My gait when I was walking… people could tell I wasn’t doing as well anymore. So before I got to rock bottom, to where I was before, I went to Costa Rica, I thought I’d get back down here and try to get ahead of the curve, and I’ve been going back ever since.
Jason: Yeah. I live in Texas so it’s going to be hot, but I think because of my medical history I have to pay closer attention than most, but for anyone if you stay out in the heat too long, you’re going to get drained. You’re going to get tired. It affects me more so than somebody without MS, but like I said, if I’m smart now and listen to my body, I really don’t have any problems.
Michelle: I’ve been with Jason through every step in this and with all his physicians in the states, and I would send anybody here. It’s extremely loving first of all, extremely hands-on in trying to help you.
Even if you need a glass of water, it’s not a bother, just little things like that. Extremely professional, wanting to make sure you go that extra step and know what you’re dealing with, that you’re not afraid of what you’re fixing to do. Being on the opposite end of this and not being the one who’s being treated you feel helpless, but here I haven’t felt helpless with anything Jason’s needed to go through. Everybody’s been so reassuring and reaffirming, and there’s been no questions. And if there are questions, they get answered. It’s a night and day difference. We’re not just a number, or a name, or the money being paid to make this happen. It’s truly being done because y’all care and it works! It just truly works, and I’d send anyone here in a heartbeat. The therapy of it, the physical therapy, it’s not you just go and exercise. You’re taught life skill exercise you can use until you’re 100 years old if you live that long, and continue to be stronger and better.
Jason: I’d like to qualify this: in the US I’ve had some of the best MS specialists that there are, who are still good friends of mine, but… it’s… my experience with MS in the United States is that they treat the symptoms and don’t look for a cure. I’ve been on every MS medication that there is, the last time I checked, and honestly the side effects were worse than what they were trying to fix, a lot of it. They weren’t doing anything. They said that the goal of each one of those was to lengthen the amount of time between relapses, which means you’re still going to have a relapse.
When we came here, I want to fix the problem. That’s what we found here. I speak to people with MS on a daily basis. I could make a full time job out of answering emails and phone calls about what stem cells have done for me, and I spend a great deal of time doing that. I don’t endorse the clinic, I don’t get paid a penny for doing it, but to me that would be the most selfish thing in the world to know it works if I didn’t take the time to share my story with other MS patients.
Y’all have changed my life. I’m back. I’m still in law enforcement. I work a 40 hour week that seems like a vacation. I’m not a proud man. The day my boss gave me my badge and gun back I cried like a baby because that was really the only thing that I’d ever given up on. I don’t give up. I never thought, ‘I won’t walk again,’ even when specialists told me, ‘Jason you might not walk again,’ because all that would do is make me more mad and more determined. The only thing that I nearly gave up on was never being able to wear a badge and gun again, and you guys gave me that back.
Every day when I take that first step it actually means something. It’s not I have to go to work tomorrow. I get to go to work tomorrow. It changes your whole thinking. She was talking about the staff. I get to tell people every time I talk to them that this is the finest group of doctors I ever dealt with. I’ve had some outstanding doctors in the US, but as far as… I’ll put the doctors here up against anyone in the world. The caring, the professionalism, if you have a question, they have an answer, and it’s… speaking from experience when I went to Costa Rica I was scared to death. I tried everything for my MS and nothing was working. I decide one day I’ve tried it all. I’d read about the clinic from another law enforcement officer who’d kept a blog about every day he spent in Costa Rica, which I followed religiously. I sent my application before he even got back and was approved. I met Preston Walker, the day after he got back was the day before I was supposed to leave. It was wonderful meeting him; if someone told you he had MS you wouldn’t know it to look at him, and he had the same results I did, and he’s still working today. But it was scary. I’m a country boy, I was raised on a farm, and for me to get on a plane to another country to get medical care down there… we all hear the horror stories. But after my first visit with the doctors I was at ease and it’s the finest group of doctors I’ve ever been associated with.
Michelle: And we’ve heard that from everybody. We have a group of people from every time we were here. I keep a group of people and stay in contact, and everybody is happy. Everybody who is dealing with children who have patients here to adults… we tell everyone when we were coming here that we were going on a family reunion because that’s just how we feel. This is like a family for us. Y’all have loved us and stood there with us through the hardest times and helped us have our life back and to us, that’s family.
Jason: We sat in our driveway and cried the day I sold my electric scooter because that was the only way I could get around. We sold it and when the gentleman come picked it up, we sat in our driveway and cried. It was so good to see that go, it was a godsend when I needed it, but it was so good seeing that go.
I’ll stand on top of the highest mountain and sing your praises to anyone that will listen, because like I said, it would be the most selfish thing in the world if I didn’t. I don’t just think it works, I’m walking proof that it works. I’ve talked to hundreds of people who have ended up coming down here, and I won’t say that everyone’s had the same results that I’ve had, but I can only think of two out of hundreds who just flat-out said it didn’t work.
That was my whole philosophy when I came down, I was so scared of getting my hopes up. I saw it worked for Preston Walker, but I’d been giving every witch potion you can think of saying this is going to make it all better. Medicine or herbal it didn’t matter. All I could see it was draining my checking account and not helping me at all. Of the hundreds I’ve talked to, with all but two, have said they were much better when they got back. I told myself if I had a better quality of life when I got home, then it worked. I don’t care how big or how small, if I had a better quality of life then it worked, and boy did it.
Michelle: If it didn’t work we wouldn’t be coming back for maintenance. If I can advise a spouse that is wanting to help in any way, this is not a miracle cure. This is something like with anything you do to change your life and make that commitment. This is going to give you the tools and everything you need and it’s going to jumpstart you to such a level – that you have that will and desire to go again that it’s given him. It’s your responsibility when you’re given that gift, You have to take care of it. You have to maintain it and nurture it. I think that’s why Jason’s been so successful; coming in with his mind-frame, when he got that gift with the stem cells. He’s taken it and he’s taking care of that gift and has nurtured it and that’s why we keep coming back; to boost it and keep it going.
Jason: When I was coming back I told my Sheriff, my boss, that I was coming back, and he’s seen me at my worst and my best because I’ve been working for the same place for seventeen years. When I told him I was coming back down, he got a very concerned look at first like, ‘are you not doing okay?’ and I laughed. It’s the joke around the office that I haven’t felt this good in years. I’m going down for a tune-up, and they all got a good laugh out of that. That’s how I see it. I’m getting a tune-up and I’ll keep coming down for it as long as you’ll have me.
Michelle: When I say I love you guys, and I haven’t met y’all, it’s because you’ve meant so much to me. I married this man not-healthy, walking with the assistance of a cane or a walker. I was the one who got to pick him up at the airport that day, and watch him walk upright like the strong man that he is for the very first time and it was wonderful. So that was the most wonderful thing anybody can have. So I’ve loved y’all since that moment.