New hope for paralysed woman
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, The Guardian, London, UK
A British woman who was left paralysed by a riding accident has regained some movement after taking part in a pioneering trial in which stem cells were transplanted from her nose into her spine. In May 1998, her horse stumbled at the final jump of a cross-country course and she was catapulted into the air. “The way I landed just snapped my spine,” she said.
"When they come up to you and say you’re never going to walk again, you just think: ‘Oh, once I get out of hospital I’ll be fine’. "
Then reality sank in. “My whole way of life changed just completely.”
Now she has become one of the first patients to benefit from a pioneering trial by Dr Carlos Lima at the Egaz Moniz Hospital in Lisbon.
“If there’s a chance that you could possibly be better than being stuck in a wheelchair, paralysed, I think you’ve got to take it,” she said. “All of our patients have some kind of recovery. We have no doubts about sensory recovery and some voluntary motor recovery,” said Dr Lima. “They move and feel below the lesions as never before. And there is even some bladder and bowel control recovery.”
Kim will be featured in an award-winning Carlton Television/ITV programme, Miracle Cell, to be broadcast in the new year.
The first patient to have the operation three years ago is still improving, Dr Lima said. Some of his patients can now walk with braces or a walking frame.
Speaking from her home in the south of England yesterday, Kim Gould described the impressive progress that she has made since the operation in October last year.
At first she felt more sensation down her right side then a difference in her lower back and abdominal muscles. Now there is some movement in her hamstrings.
“It is very exciting,” she said. “I can crawl around the floor. I am quite balanced now and I can actually lift each leg and move it forward.”
She added: “What I have recovered in a year, after six years of no movement, is quite remarkable. It is quite amazing. Of course, my goal from the surgery would be to walk again and be as I was before, but I told him anything I didn’t have before, any little bit, was gravy for me.”
She would also like to ride again, but her family are against it, she said.
Her case is all the more remarkable because the olfactory tissue used for the transplant can diminish over time, so patient age is important. Kim Gould, at 43, is the oldest patient to participate in the trial.
“She is a very special person,” said Dr Lima.
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