A local woman says her trip to Russia for a what's considered an experimental treatment in this country, has given her freedom. Brooke Slick didn't quality for U.S. trials of a stem cell transplant for multiple sclerosis, so she had it done in Moscow this spring. Now she's working on her recovery back here at home.
It may look like just stretching but for Brooke, muscle tightness due to multiple sclerosis makes it painful.
"When they're doing those stretches and I want to cry, your eyes well up," and I'm like I'm okay. I can do this I can do this," she says.
Since July, Brooke's been working at the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Clinic in Duncansville, on increasing the range of motion, the strength, and the control of her right leg, as well as her balance. MS gave her drop-foot making it difficult to raise her leg enough to climb stairs or get in her car.
Over the past few months, her ability to lift that leg has gone from 25 degrees to 95 degrees. The HealthSouth office's Clinical Manager, George Townsend, a physical therapist says, "that's pretty significant from her standpoint how she feels, how well she's functioning with different activities."
Brooke's physical therapy focuses on balance and movement issues that plagued her before her stem cell treatment.
She credits her improvements, largely to the stem cell procedure, and believes it's allowing her to regain her abilities. "When I take physical therapy," she says, "I'm able to use muscles I wasn't able to use in the past and things are connecting that weren't connecting in the past, so we're able to get better results."
Townsend adds, "she definitely has made more improvements, which I would have to believe is from the procedure, but I can't say that."
Brooke had hoped the stem cell procedure would reverse her MS, but so far it hasn't. As part of the process, she's undergoing four chemotherapy treatments and will wait until the last is over in May, before reaching that conclusion.
But she's happy with the results of her stem cell procedure and sums it up by saying, "I can go where I want to go. I can't skip my way there but I can walk my way there, maybe not as quickly everybody else does, but before I couldn't get there at all. My entire life revolved around what I couldn't do and now my entire life revolves around what I can do, so the mind set is completely different, it's freedom, it's complete freedom."
Brooke says her goal was to halt her MS and brain scans suggest that has happened. "Just the fact I don't have to use a trekking pole to walk anymore completely changed my life!"