Stem cell treatments for spinal cord injury – Jamie Richie discusses her improvements

Jamie Richie discussed her treatments and improvements while undergoing her third round of stem cell therapy at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama City, Panama.

Jamie’s first round of treatment comprised 8 intrathecal (into the spinal fluid) infusions of human umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hUC-MSC); 4 intravenous infusions of hUC-MSC; 2 intrathecal infusions of autologous (their own) bone marrow mononuclear cells (BMMC); 2 intravenous injections of BMMC and 19 physical therapy sessions over the course of one month. Her second round of treatments comprised half the infusions of the first.

My name is Jamie Richie. This is my third treatment here. I was diagnosed with a L-1 injury. That was back in January 1st, 2010.

What symptoms did you have before you came for treatment?

I had no movement from my L-1 level down. As far as my right leg, I couldn’t stand on it at all without a brace. If I had a brace on it I could stand and I could walk and all, with braces; and a more aggressive brace. My pain was very strong. My legs; the circulation was worse in my legs. Their color, they were very purple. I could not walk on a treadmill. I had a hard time walking on uneven ground.

What kind of improvements have you experienced since your first treatment?

I’ve improved. I’ve had like five major things after my very first treatment, which was a year ago in January. I was able to stand on my right leg without a brace and walk. My pain level dropped between a 10 down to a 6. It’s controllable. The circulation in my legs; my balance is better. I can carry things while walking with a walker. I can transfer something from one counter to the next. I can be in my kitchen, hold onto the counter and stand and get out a glass out of the cabinets. I can walk on a treadmill and I am actually able to walk three speeds higher than when I first started walking. So I’ve had great gains there. After my second treatment, I was able to walk even stronger on my right leg. I have better bladder control. I got better bladder control out of the first treatment. And I noticed that I didn’t get a whole lot until about two months after the treatment.

How has this experience changed your life?

This experience has changed my life, just one, the nerve pain. I’m more comfortable driving. I can walk barefoot on my right leg without any braces or… It’s just nice being able to walk barefoot. Being able to get onto the treadmill, that’s huge for me. I don’t have to drive to a park or a track and walk on a track. I can get on the treadmill and keep a good pace and keep better tracking of what my progress is. For my balance, being able to stand and take my clothes out of my washing machine and put them in my dryer to standing in the kitchen and being able to take a pan that has water in it and put it in the sink. I was unable to do any of that. If I were standing, would have to have help. Transferring, you know, something from one counter to the next. Walking on uneven ground is big for a life change. If someone comes to the house to pick me up, walking to the car. To be able to walk into a store, I can go to the grocery store, walk in, get into a power chair and do all my grocery shopping there. So, get back onto the walker and get back into my car. It’s given me more independence, which is very big for me.

What would you say to someone who is considering this treatment?

It’s not going to hurt you to try it. It’s going to hurt you not to try it. If I could suggest anything, I would just say as soon as you’re better from your injury where you are not in any more pain and able to get to therapy, I would go. And I would go as soon as you can. Otherwise, you’re going to sit back and go, “Gee what if I wouldn’t of? What if I had gotten?“ There are a lot of people to talk to. There are people who didn’t gain anything. I have not spoken to anybody who didn’t gain anything off a spinal cord injury. Do your homework. It’s worth it and it doesn’t hurt. I mean, it doesn’t hurt me. I can feel completely my whole back. So when I get the injections in my spine… The anesthesiologist is excellent. The doctor is excellent. I will have close to 20 injections in my back and I have had no bad experiences at all. I’ve had no negative side effects at all, none. I’ve only had positive side effects.