View Full Version : Awesome recovery from scleroderma

07-20-2009, 09:31 PM
Don't get me wrong, I think this is wonderful, but would this be called the placebo effect if he had the treatment outside the U.S.?

Retired Perth Amboy principal 'reborn' after stem-cell transplant

By SUZZANE C. RUSSELL July 19, 2009

PERTH AMBOY ? Michael George feels so good he can pinch himself.

And today, after undergoing an autologous adult stem-cell transplant 14 months ago to stop his advanced case of scleroderma, an incurable autoimmune disease that causes excess collagen to make skin tighten and feel hard and thick, George is able to pinch his pliable skin. He's also able to open his mouth real wide.

?I feel really good,? said George, a retired William C. McGinnis School principal, who in April was taken off all medications, including antibiotics, related to his transplant.

?I feel I was reborn,? George said. ?It's great to be alive.?

It was at his one-year check-up in April doctors told George, an avid fisherman, that he can now do anything he wants.

He recently returned from a five-day trip to Martha's Vineyard, where he went fishing with friends. And soon George will travel to Spain with his wife, Alice, brother and sister and their families during which he will celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary.

?We're looking forward to it,? he said.

And he's spending lots of time this summer on his 22-foot fishing boat, which he affectionately refers to as ?my baby? and along the city's marina.

?This is my passion,? said George while sitting along the marina. ?This is my kind of weather.?

Just before the March 13, 2008, adult stem-cell transplant, George's skin was stiff and his face was tight. He had a hard time swallowing. Doctors were concerned his condition was spreading internally to the point it might close his esophagus and damage his heart and lungs.

The procedure George underwent at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago involved taking stem cells from his bone marrow, cleaning and freezing them while he received large doses of chemotherapy to cleanse his immune system before the stem cells were put back into his body to grow.

He said a stainless steel vat with a long cylinder contained the stem cells that were put into a syringe and his body.

He was asked to identify any distinct smells.

?It smelled like cream corn. It filled the whole hall,? George said. ?They couldn't explain it. It was so strange.?

George said when he returned to the hospital for visits he knew if he smelled cream corn that someone had undergone a stem-cell transplant.

?I eat a lot of corn now,? he joked.

George stayed in the hospital for nearly three weeks and remained in Chicago for about three months staying in a hotel affiliated with the hospital which offered apartment-like accommodations for transplant patients.

The night he returned to Perth Amboy, George remembers being able to bend down to pick up the luggage from the trunk of the cab. These days his knees are giving him some trouble when he bends due to arthritis.

George said the procedure didn't cure him, but it stopped the disease and reverses it to a certain extent.

?In April the doctor said "are you sure I didn't give you a lung transplant, instead of a stem cell transplant,? he said, noting both his lungs and heart are now in good condition.

Following the transplant, George said his body has a low tolerance for cold weather and he has to really bundle up. He may spend part of the upcoming winter visiting a friend in California and his son, who lives on the island of St. Vincent.

George said he really appreciates life and everyone at his church, the school district and city who wrote or e-mailed him and contributed toward his medical expenses, which were more than $200,000.

He now wants to pay it forward by helping others facing adult stem-cell transplants.

?I'm like an advocate,? said George, who sees his role as offering a helping hand, just as others who had been through the procedure had helped him. ?We advocate among each other.

It helps them, and it helps me too. All my life I wanted to help people. Helping kids was my forte. Now to help someone in need who doesn't know what to expect, it raises it to a whole different level.?