Dodgers, Kenley Jansen, has jumped at the opportunity to help a man in dire need of medical treatment that he cannot afford.
Closer for the Dodgers, Kenley Jansen, was the savior for several of the team’s games. Now, Jansen has jumped at the opportunity to help a man in dire need of medical treatment that he cannot afford.
Changing the course of an injury or disease
At the age of 18, Amadeo Ellensburg from the Netherlands was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). As a young man, he believed that it would take years before his condition deteriorated. However, as the years went by, his symptoms gradually progressed. Ellensburg could not receive his driver’s license due to tingling in his legs and soon enough, it become difficult for him to stand still for more than 10 minutes.
At that point in his life, Ellensburg became confined to a wheelchair. While current treatment options for MS are helpful for reducing the severity of the disease, they do not reverse the damage caused to the central nervous system. Therefore, they cannot cure the disease.
With this in mind, Ellensburg began researching an experimental treatment for MS called stem cell therapy. Stem cells are the basic building blocks of human tissue. These cells have the ability to repair, rebuild and rejuvenate tissues within the body. When an injury or disease occurs, stem cells respond to specific signals and set out to facilitate the healing process. “The stem cells are naturally immunosuppressant, meaning they can help quiet down an over-reactive immune system and help the immune system function in a more normal way. Neurological diseases, traumatic brain injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s: all of these have to do with tissue that’s not functioning properly” said Kristin Comella, stem cell researcher. The cells can be used to address this issue because when there are not enough of them or they are not working properly, chronic diseases can manifest and persist.
There are several different types of stem cells, but hematopoietic stem cells are of particular interest among researchers. Hematopoietic stem cells are adult stem cells that are found in bone marrow and blood. They have the ability to produce all of the cells that make up the blood and the immune system. In short, the treatment consists of three steps. First, the stem cells are removed from the patient’s blood or bone marrow and they are temporarily frozen. Secondly, the patient undergoes chemotherapy and antibody treatment to stimulate their immune system. Finally, the patient’s stem cells are infused back into their body.
The side effects of HSCT are minimal and may include minor swelling / bleeding, localized pain, and infection. However, these side effects tend to last no more than 24 hours and to date, no long-term negative side effects or risks have been reported.
Unfortunately, HSCT is rather expensive and it is not offered in the Netherlands. So, Ellensburg and his family began raising funds for him to receive the treatment in Moscow. Initially, he signed up to receive the treatment in February of this year, however, he had to cancel when his fundraising efforts fell short.
A little hope goes a long way
Having heard about Ellensburg’s story on social media, Jansen, who is also a citizen of the Netherlands, decided to help. He donated the remaining $72,000 that Ellensburg needed in order to receive his treatment. “This is a guy that has tried to get help for a long time. I just wanted to help” said Jansen.
Touched by Jansen’s generosity, Ellensburg shared his gratitude on his Facebook page. “Thanks to Kenley Jansen and his brother, my dream comes true” he wrote. If the treatment is successful, Ellensburg may have the chance to walk again. “It cannot be cured, but I hope to be able to walk again someday. And maybe play with my children” he said.
Jansen hasn't been in the Netherlands in quite a few years, however he looks forward to visiting Ellensburg in the near future. “I can’t help everybody. But to see him struggle as a young kid like that, it stops your heart. Hopefully he becomes better, lives life healthy, and enjoys his family. You just want to see him healthy and back on his feet,” said Jansen.
Today, more than a million successful stem cell procedures have been performed. These procedures have given so many a happier outlook and richer quality of life.
Stem cell treatment has been shown to help improve various symptoms associated with MS, including:
- Improved concentration
- Better memory and speech
- Improved vision
- Enhanced mobility and muscle strength
- Balance enhancement
- Improved bladder function
- Reduction or elimination of numbness and tingling in the limbs
- Reduction or elimination of muscle spasms
In order to repair or replace damaged tissue, the process of stem cell therapy is something that will occur over the course of several months and may require repetitive dosages. We live in a time of innovation and research, especially in the field of MS. Sooner rather than later, we expect that stem cell therapy will be used more than traditional drug therapy for treating MS.