Stem cells encore!

$275 of $1,800 goal

Raised by 4 people in 21 months
don christensen
on behalf of Barb Behan
Two and a half years ago, I was faced with a very difficult choice. I could continue the medication I was taking to control my multiple sclerosis knowing that I was not likely to survive more than a year. My other option was to stop taking that same medication and let my MS run rampant knowing full well that it would turn me into a vegetable before much time passed. Finding yourself faced with a decision like that is a horrible place to be. I believe the Lord never closes a door without at least opening a window. The window proved to be 90 million tiny stem cells from a little hospital in a big city in the middle of the Panamanian rain forest.

Panamanian doctors told me I would not be likely to see any actual changes. It would however enable me to get off the medication that was going to end my life. They said changes could happen but if a year could pass and I could still be off my medication they would consider it a success.

I'm happy to report that it's been 2 years and the doctors underestimated the effects of the treatment on my body. Within 5 min. of the initial treatment, the changes began! From the first change of my eyesight going back to normal, to the ability to make a loose fist with a hand that had not moved in 17 years, to the numb spots on my body regaining natural feeling, and to the elimination of the mental fog that had gripped me for years… a thousand tiny miracles came into my life!

The physical and mental benefits of the last 2 years have been incredible. The most powerful emotions have been faith and hope. This entire project has been based on faith, both spiritual and the faith in my friends, my neighbors, and my family. The gift of hope is one of the most powerful gifts there has been. MS is not a disease that allows room for hope. It only goes one direction and that's downhill. With stem cells, that downhill spiral can be halted and actually reversed. That's powerful and that's what I try to share with people each and every day.

The doctors told me when I did the initial stem cell procedure that stem cells typically begin to die off after about six months. After a year or so, people generally return to Panama for another treatment. For me, it's been 2 years and I have seen some degradation in my physical health. My neurologist and I have discussed the possibility that my old medicine may eventually be needed again. I hope not. That's why we are considering a return trip to Panama.

Last fall another terrible hurdle appeared in my life, Guillain Barre. When it struck I found myself on my back in the hospital without the ability to speak clearly, move my lips, or close my eyes. I had no chance of standing even with assistance! Thankfully the doctors were able to diagnose my condition before I ended up on a ventilator unable to breathe on my own. My kids, Beth and Riley were amazing through the frightening hospitalization, never leaving my side for more than a short period. When I started to respond positively to new medication, I was able to transition to a hospital closer to home for the last few weeks of my treatment enabling a few of my caregivers/friends to work with me during recovery. Doctors forecast I would improve but that it would take months to see that improvement.

Through the grace of God, a lot of work from a few very faithful people, and my own perseverance, I was released from the hospital a few days before Christmas with the ability to stand with assistance for a few seconds. By now, we have done as much as 92 squats in a day and much of the strength has returned to my arms and legs. The facial paralysis is far from gone but I am working in the right direction. The fight is far from over but I believe I can completely recover.

Another Stem Cell Transplant is a daunting prospect but exciting nonetheless. Once again there are no guarantees, but it's after the second treatment that the true miracles have happened for people. There are cases of quadriplegics walking again. Might that be me? I don't know but the chance is an incredible one, and the doctors tell me a transplant will eliminate the effects of the Guillian Barre. At the very least I know it will buy time and that time is priceless. Stem cells are making their way to our country one step at a time. In some instances they are successfully used to battle cancer, the help I need in my fight however comes from umbilical stem cells which I cannot get within our borders.

Once again I humbly approach you and ask for your help. Your prayers were precious, your guidance and advice were vital, and when it was possible your support was greatly appreciated. Would you come along with me on this adventure as many of you did before? It’s time. We are starting this gofundme page to help us put together financing for travel expenses to get me and a couple caregivers to Panama.  There will be a Benefit at Tony's Riverside in Spooner Wi on June 24th from noon to 4pm  to help with the cost of the transplant itself.
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Update 1
Posted by Don Christensen
8 months ago
Hope… Such a powerful emotion. This notebook on my lap has been my fundraising organizer through the months of planning, organizing and selling tickets, and putting together all of the plans for a return trip to Panama. I need more of the tiny miracle stem cells that hold so much promise for my future and that of many others. Tonight I'm going to share some of my hopes and I'm going to ask each of you for something.
First, let me share part of the story of our first trip to Panama. Right before the trip, my friend and pastor asked me if he could say a prayer for me during church. I felt more than a little bit self-conscious but was more than willing to accept any help that was offered because I was in a fight for my life. I closed my eyes as he placed his hand on my shoulder and asked if anyone in the congregation would care to lay hands on me as well during the prayer. I come from a very reserved Lutheran congregation and didn't expect much of a response. I was shocked when everybody came forward and gathered around me in prayer. I cannot begin to clearly share the feelings that came over me, but it was a very profound moment that brought tears to my eyes.

A few weeks later as we drove through the streets of Panama City on our way to the Stem Cell Institute, once again tears started streaming down my cheeks. I knew with the utmost certainty that my brothers and sisters were praying for a successful treatment. For those of you who have faithfully followed my journey of hope, you know how special the experience truly was.

Tonight, I am once again on the verge of traveling south to that little clinic in the Panamanian rainforest with a tremendous amount of hope. I hope the damage Guillain Barre has caused can be erased. I hope as well that more symptoms of my multiple sclerosis can be reversed. In just a few short weeks there will be 140 million new stem cells coursing through my body. I hope they repair everything these diseases have robbed from me. I also hope that I can find the right words to share the miracles large or small that I experience. Tragedy and misfortune surround us every day in our lives and in the news. I want to show people that there is always hope as long as there is breath and the will to go forward.

Will my hopes become reality? That's a question for someone far above my standing. Physical improvement would be great, no doubt. Could physical improvement happen in a disease that allows no second chances? Perhaps.… Is it likely? It’s possible. I have maintained since the first conversation about stem cells that, "If it's meant to be, it will happen."

If you can find it in your heart, will you please remember us in your prayers as we make this journey? You have each been right alongside us through this adventure and I know I will be able to feel your love and support during this trip as well. Teresa and Dion will be traveling south with me for their first experience out of the United States. We will carry your good thoughts along with us and will keep you posted throughout the journey as often as is possible. God bless.
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$275 of $1,800 goal

Raised by 4 people in 21 months
Created April 11, 2017
don christensen
on behalf of Barb Behan
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Walter Metz
18 months ago

For my wife who had MS & Lyme

Sarah Thielke
19 months ago
19 months ago
Barb Blodgett
21 months ago
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