Many concerned people have contacted me asking what’s going on, so I will try to explain the recent course of events. But before I do so, I just want to say I am extremely conflicted by what we have been told to date and by the opinions we have recently been given. Unfortunately this represents the inherent problems with autism. One is given a diagnosis based on observation and by the anecdotal evidence provided by parents. There is no blood test, no x-ray by which a diagnosis is made. No one knows what autism is, no one knows what causes it and no one knows how best to treat it. There isn’t even one thing (whether a drug, a therapy, or any other kind of remedy) that everyone agrees will help. As parents of an autistic child struggling to make sense of all the opposing opinions, it becomes a formidable task to wade through the copious amounts of information, opinions, articles and books. We are continuing to do our best to make sense of all we are hearing, reading and learning and will continue to keep posting as we gather more information.
To give a summary of what has happened in the past week – through a series of unrelated incidences, Richard was put in touch with the two Drs. he and I referenced in the past two posts. They voiced their deep concerns with the stem cell treatments we have been doing with Emma. They gave an example of a boy who evidently developed tumors as a result of stem cell treatments he received in a third world country. I do not know any more details. We have, since our initial conversation with them, been put into contact with a number of other professionals in the field of autism and stem cell research. Richard and I are doing all we can to get as many opinions from different researchers and doctors who specialize in autism and stem cell research.
Last winter when we began looking into stem cell treatments, wondering if it might help Emma, we spoke with a number of doctors who felt it was worth a try. The two doctors who have been following Emma and meeting with us over the past few years were in the process of putting together a group of 40 autistic children to take to the Costa Rican clinic before it was closed. They had funding in place, which has since fallen through. These two doctors were our main source of information as they had both been to the Panama clinic as well as the Costa Rican clinic. In one conversation with them, I was shown the brain scan of a moderate to severely autistic boy before he had done any stem cell treatments and then his brain scan after six treatments, which occurred over the course of two years. He now has a normally developing brain. Seeing that scan was a turning point for me. I remember standing in the doctor’s office and thinking – we have to at least try this. For another example of anecdotal success stories see comment to my last post, “Hope for Emma?”
Prior to Emma’s first stem cell treatment in Costa Rica I spoke with a couple of other doctors, a few of whom felt it was inadvisable to go, but prefaced their comments by saying they did not know of the work the Stem Cell Institute was doing personally, and two who said they were watching what the Institute was doing and hoping to replicate their treatments once it was allowed in the US.
To date we have not seen the sort of huge uptick we would hope to see on Emma’s brain scans. We have been told we shouldn’t expect to see results so soon and that these things can take up to six months to show up. Again these are opinions regarding a treatment, which has only been done to a few hundred children during the past few years. Richard and I intend to continue monitoring her through our own observations as well as with periodic brain scans. We continue to pursue the leading specialists in the field of stem cell research and autism.
At the moment, however, we have decided we cannot return to Panama and the Stem Cell Institute. Richard and I agreed, when we began advocating for Emma, we would try anything to help her if there was no risk of harming her. We cannot ignore what we are now being told.
I have seen progress in Emma. She is more engaged and is engaging for longer periods of time, there is a depth to her eye contact that was not there six months ago. She no longer wears a diaper at night and has not wet the bed for over a month. Whether any of this is due to the stem cell treatments is impossible to know.