University of Hawaii associate professor, Cristy Kessler, was suffering from a rare combination of three different autoimmune diseases: Vasculitis, Scleroderma, and Akylosing Spondyliitis. The pain was so bad, that, in her own words, she was “preparing to die.” She was constantly on a combination of prescription pain medications including morphine and vicadin, and could barely walk down the street.
Stem cell transplant looked like the only viable option for Cristy, but because the procedure is not approved by the FDA or covered by insurance, she would have to look overseas for options.
Eventually, she did find an option: the Anadolou Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey. Because her disease was still in the early phase, doctors were optimistic about her prognosis. In March 2010, Dr. Zafer Gulbas led the taxing two month long procedure consisting of chemotherapy, frequent blood tests, and isolation.
Although long term results won’t be measured for some time, the stem cell transplant seems to have been a success. Kessler is now off the prescription pain medications that she previously depended on just to function, and has a new life. Her immune system is fragile and she is dependent on antibiotics, but says she now wants to enjoy music and “dance like a fool” without being in pain. Watch the video from KITV Honolulu
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