XCell-Center News: Journey leads to 'better life' - for cerebral pals...

Journey leads to 'better life' - for cerebral palsy patient after stem cell therapy

Avaia looks at people's faces.
That's the biggest difference her mother has noticed since the community rallied to send the two-year-old to Germany for special bone marrow stem cell treatment.
She had trouble paying attention before. Her eyes would wander constantly. Lights attracted her attention but not her focus.
"Since we've been back, she's taking time to look at things, she's focusing a lot better, even on people's faces," Ashley DiMarco said.
"If she's interested in it, it could be a toy, a person, anything, she just really takes her time to focus on what it is. She does take her breaks, but she's doing so much better. She is much more alert."
Avaia has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. She is unable to walk, talk or communicate, and eats through a feeding tube.
Her parents heard about the treatment at a private clinic, XCell-Center in Dusseldorf, Germany and decided it was worth a shot, applying with physicians' letters and other documentation.
When Avaia was accepted earlier this year, Ashley, a stay-at-home mom and John, who works at the hydro tunnel in Niagara Falls, began a whirlwind two months of fundraising in an effort to raise the $30,000 required for treatment and travel.
Through those fundraisers, including barbecues, yard sales, a McDonald's event, concert and golf tournament in St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland, they met their goal.
"I want to say thank you to everybody who did help," DiMarco said again this week. "Thanks to them, this is what happened and it's already given her a better life."
The Thorold family travelled to Germany Sept. 10, returning nine days later, and were told it would take several weeks to see any results.
Now two months later, Ashley DiMarco said she's seeing improvements.
"For everyone else, they might think it's something small, but for us it's huge," DiMarco said. "It can only get better, I think, from here. She's not going to get worse and it can only increase her chances."
Besides her ability to focus more, Avaia is now reaching out and grabbing objects, DiMarco said. She can't do it for a long period of time, but DiMarco said she was unable to hold anything in her hands before.
Avaia is also trying to sit up on her own, but hasn't mastered it yet. Once DiMarco has her up, Avaia can hold herself up for a few minutes at a time. DiMarco said if Avaia starts to lean over, she knows she has to put her hands down first and tries to stop herself from falling over.
In therapy, Avaia used to be held up around the waist and her upper half would bend over. DiMarco said she can now hold up the upper half of her body. She's been able to do it for 10 minutes at a time.
"She does get cranky after a little while because it's a lot of work for her, she's holding up all that weight on her own, but you can tell she's so proud of herself and she starts laughing and smiling," DiMarco said.
"She knows she's doing it and she's doing a great job of it."
The family is hoping to go back for more treatment, it's just a matter of money.
DiMarco said they will aim for next summer, though children can receive a second treatment in as early as six months. It's best to go when she's young and her brain is still developing for the best results, DiMarco said.

XCell-Center News: Journey leads to 'better life' - for cerebral pals...: "By Karena Walter / The Tribune - St. Catharines, Canada ST. CATHARINES - Avaia looks at people's faces. That's the biggest difference he..."


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