Portager swears by MS procedure that isn't allowed in Canada
Staff photo by Rob Swystun -- Dave Oshust, shown here in his living room in Portage la Prairie Tuesday, travelled to Poland to undergo the liberation procedure to relieve his multiple sclerosis symptoms in June 2010. He says the treatment has renewed his life.
Portage la Prairie resident Dave Oshust spent Tuesday painting his kitchen.
What makes the feat remarkable is that eight months ago, Oshust could barely get out of bed and painting his kitchen would have been some kind of unattainable dream.
Oshust has multiple sclerosis (MS).
He was diagnosed with MS, an autoimmune disease which affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other, in 2001. However, he estimates it started as far back as 1995. Both his father and sister have MS.
But he has a new lease on life thanks to the "liberation" procedure he underwent in Poland in June 2010. Liberation treatment is also known by its technical name of chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency treatment.
The procedure, not yet cleared to be done in Canada, involves doing an angioplasty or a stent to the jugular veins in the neck that unblock blood drainage from the central nervous system.
In addition to doing a myriad of tests, doctors inserted a scope in an artery in Oshust's groin and fed it up into his torso, past his heart, and into the jugular veins in his neck, where they inserted a dye to see how his blood was flowing in that area compared to the way it should be flowing.
"They found out I had three blockages in my jugulars," Oshust said at his home Tuesday. "I had one blockage on my right side, which they stented, and I had two on my left side, which they just angioplasted or ballooned open."
The procedure lasted about an hour, he said, and he was under a mild sedative. Oshust said he felt no pain during the procedure but likened the angioplasty to having someone shove a ping-pong ball into his jugular vein and quickly pulling it out again.
The most unpleasant part of the whole procedure was the crunching sounds Oshust said he heard during the procedure.
But that was worth it, he said, as his MS symptoms have all but disappeared.
"The one thing I noticed was a big difference was my legs," he said. "My legs were weak and very sore and uncoordinated and after I got back - it took time - but within three to six months my legs felt 25 years old again. I can play hockey and soccer again."
His chronic fatigue is also gone, Oshust said, as well as chronic headaches he used to have consistently.
The actual procedure cost 6,900 Euros and was done in a clinic about the same size as the Portage Walk-in Clinic in the city of Katowice.
"With airfare, it amounted to about $11,000, which I tell people is the price of a good used car," Oshust said. "And I'm worth that."
Oshust, who owns Go-Green Lawn Care in Portage, said he'd be able to recoup those costs now that he's able to function properly again.
Oshust is due to go back to Poland on Jan. 23 for a follow up examination and again later this year.
The Go-Green owner said he'd recommend the procedure to anyone who has MS but the sooner it gets done the better as he saw people who had been ravaged by the disease and who were getting the treatment as a last ditch effort to beat it. Those people usually didn't see the extent of recovery that he had, he said.
Oshust said ever since the treatment hit the news in 2009, he had been following it and keeping track of which countries offered it.
While Canada has refused to OK the procedure, opting instead to wait until it undergoes more extensive clinical trials to prove its safety and efficiency, other countries offer the procedure to those who are willing to pay for it.
The Government of Manitoba, in October, pledged $500,000 for clinical trials of the procedure when it was deemed safe and ethical to do so.
"We have always said our government is willing to fund CCSVI clinical trials and today we are taking a step forward by establishing a fund for this research, if and when it is deemed safe and ethical to proceed," said Health Minister Theresa Oswald in an October 15, 2010 press release.
The press release also said the Manitoba government is advocating for a pan-Canadian, multi-site approach to clinical trials of the co-called "liberation" treatment.
A spokesman for the government said there are currently no trials being done in the country, though and he wasn't aware how or when those trials might be given the green light to proceed.
"Right now, we're in a bit of a holding pattern," the spokesman said.
In the meantime, Oshust said, he's still continue to recommend the procedure to anyone living with MS but the sooner they get the procedure, the better.