Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Multiple sclerosis sufferer seeks radical cure treatment

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Finley’s Emma Simpson will travel to Russia for a month in early September, where she will undergo potentially live-saving stem cell treatment.

SOPHIE BURGE July 9, 2014 3:30am

Emma and Kurtis Simpson with their children (from left) Mikayla, Lachlan and Marlee.

Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, Finley’s Emma Simpson’s body has been slowly deteriorating.

The disease affects her neurological function, and worsens with every attack.

Emma has relapsing-remitting MS, which means attacks are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), and there is no apparent progression of disease.

With scans showing no change in the disease, the 28 year-old mother of three said she’s taking the fight to a new level.

Emma flies to Russia for a month in early September, where she will undergo potentially live-saving stem cell treatment not available in Australia.

She learned about the radical treatment watching Channel’s Nine’s hit show 60 Minutes earlier this year.

‘‘After 60 Minutes aired, I emailed the Russian organisation straight away and got a date originally scheduled for March next year.

‘‘I still wasn’t sure, so my husband Kurtis and I said we would wait and see what the next MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan would show. The scans showed no progression.

‘‘The following week, I met a neurologist in Canberra who used to practice the same treatment as in Russia.

‘‘He looked at the MRI scans and advised me to go straight to Russia. I was put on a waiting list, then they (the Russian organisation) came back with September 9.’’

Until now, Emma has been receiving monthly infusions of a disease modifying drug. If the Russian treatment does not work, she will need to continue the regular transfusions.

The Russian treatment involves stem cell transplants and chemotherapy and there is no guarantee the treatment will work.

The Russian clinic has completed 280 of these treatments with an 80 per cent success rate, but Emma said MS progression is still a possibility after the treatment.

Emma’s MS has been gradually worsening for more than six months, and there’s a possibility she’s been fighting the disease for several years.

‘‘I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS on October 23 last year.

‘‘I hadn’t felt well since I had my daughter three years ago, but I put it down to other things.

‘‘In October the left side of my face went numb, so I went for MRI scans in Albury. Follow up scans in Melbourne confirmed the MS.

‘‘Around Christmas time, my lower back to knee went numb and my right leg would drag.

‘‘I started treatment in January with an infusion every 28 days which I was having in Melbourne, then Shepparton.’’

Finley and district rallied behind Emma following her diagnosis, helping her fundraise for MS Australia through a 24-Hour mega swim event in Shepparton in March.

Two Finley teams raised a combined $16,567, and that was before Emma had learned about the Russian treatment.

The community is again getting behind Emma in her health battle, with several fundraisers planned to help her cover the costs of treatment.

She will need at least $60,000 to go to Russia, where she will be accompanied by her mother Libby West.

The treatment alone will almost $43,000 Australian.

Travel and other expenses must also be covered, and Emma has been advised to return to Australia flying business class because her immune system will be compromised.

Recovery from the treatment could take up to two years, depending on the individual. Emma will be unable to return to work until she has fully recovered.

‘‘The flights are expensive and my mother is coming with me, so there’s expenses with that too. She’s staying for the month with me.

‘‘When I made this decision to go to Russia, we as a family were financially prepared to take this on. We did not expect people to fundraise the way they are.

‘‘It sends me speechless the amount of community support I have received. I can’t believe how much effort people are going to, it’s remarkable.

‘‘It’s not until you go through something like this you realise how lucky you are to live in Finley.’’

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