Brendan Friel here. This is not how I intended to reach out to many of you, but here goes. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in December of 2011. It came on out of the blue, and it was nasty. My first major episode left me all but paralyzed on my left side. Fortunately, I rebounded and recovered fairly well from that “attack”, but have lost quite a bit of strength and live in constant pain. I still have my (coveted) mobility, but honestly, it is uncertain how long even this will last. Sadly, I have a myriad of symptoms you needn't be burdened with, but suffice to say, the last 2 ½ years of my life have been quite challenging.
I'm not sure how many of you know what MS is all about so I will provide a quick explanation. It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system gets confused and attacks its own central nervous system, destoying myelin sheath, the protective coating for our nerves. This basically causes a short-circuit, interrupting communication throughout the CNS.
I have been bound and determined to do more than simply accept my tragic fate. I have chosen not to sit idly by and suffer from a life-long, incurable beast. This disease historically only progresses downward. I will fight!
My extensive research has lead me to the discovery of a procedure called Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT), where high dose chemotherapy is used in congruence with one's own stem cells to "reboot" the immune sytem.
HSCT erases the immune system's memory and basically hits the "reset button". This stops the underlying MS disease activity and allows the body a chance to repair itself.
I have been accepted into a program at the Pirigov Facility in Moscow, Russia for this July. The doctor is world renoun and a guru in the field of HSCT. There is currently no cure for this disease, but there are very promising studies that show this procedure (HSCT) can, and with good probability, will, halt the progression of my MS. Additionally, it may reverse some (possibly all in my case), of the damage already done. This is the only procedure to show greater than an 85% success rate at halting and reversing the damage done by MS!
A great man once told me that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, but that still does not make this any easier for me. Those of you that know me know that this "ask" is as hard as any challenge I have faced. But, I need your help. I need to get to this facility! The procedure alone is over $40,000 and health insurance will not cover it. There will be many travel and other expenses I will incur. I will be at this hospital for 5 weeks. Fortunately, my father will be accompanying me on the journey.
For those who don't know, my dad has been travelling and working in and around Russia for over 25 years. He was the first American teacher to receive a Fulbright Scholarship after the fall of communism and spent a full year teaching there while I was a sophmore at Fairfield University. There is quite a bit of irony now that I am going there to "Beat the MonSter".
One of the most compelling reasons in support of HSCT as a "cure" for MS is that when you read the substantial clinical science data, it is very consistent across all studies and trials. Extremely consistent. This is one of the many factors that finalized my decision to pursue HSCT to successfully and completely stop my MS disease activity. One of the biggest benefits is this treatment restores a degree of certainty to the future of a person's life that MS robs us of. And to me, that's worth more than gold!
Enough science....I will now rely on the compassion and good will of others (that being all of you wonderful, giving souls). Asking for help has never been one of my strong suits, but know that I will FOREVER be indebted and grateful to you for helping me regain my life back. It will be a long road to full recovery, but compared to a life filled with uncertainty and dread about what this brutal disease can and will dish out, it's going to be a piece of cake! I can handle any short-term speed bumps in order to have long-term certainty and a life free of MS.
Thank you all so very much for reading my story and contributing to my cause. Words cannot express how thankful and appreciative I am to all of you and know from the bottom of my heart, I THANK YOU. Any and all donations will help. Those of you who know me well understand how difficult this is for me, but it's something I feel strongly about and must do!
For those of you interested in more information, the attached link is from one of the pioneers of HSCT, George Goss, and has a plethora of knowledge and various links to other relevant sites.
Love and gratitude,