Caldwell resident fighting battle with multiple sclerosis

Posted: March 13, 2015 at 6:43 pm

CALDWELL Eleni Christoforou, 32, hopes that a hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) will strike a decisive blow in her decade-long battle with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The Caldwell resident said the goal is to erase any memory of the disease from her body.

However, even with insurance coverage, the procedure will cost Christoforou roughly $20,000 between traveling to Chicago, where the transplant is done, and the other costs associated with removing and reinserting her stem cells, as well as fertility treatments.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that disrupts the brains ability to communicate with the body. The hematopoietic stem cell transplant will remove Christoforous stem cells from her bone marrow and then she will undergo chemotherapy before her own stem cells are injected back into her system with hopefully no memory of the MS, she explained.

Christoforous first symptoms left her unable to walk up the stairs, bumping into walls, losing her memory and confused. There were days where she would forget how to get home or how she arrived at work, she said.

She had a particularly bad episode in July of 2014 that left her unable to speak, walk, see and even feed herself. She spent a week in the hospital followed by two weeks at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, she said. She then spent another eight weeks in outpatient therapy in order to recover.

It was a long road, but with lots of hard work and praying, you would never know that had happened to me by looking at me, she said.

After this episode, she was perusing Facebook for MS groups when one of the suggestions was a group for patients of Dr. Richard K. Burts Stem Cell Study at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Christoforou was diagnosed with MS at age 22 in 2005. It was her senior year of college and for awhile, she thought the symptoms were stress accruing from a busy year, but it unfortunately ended up being much worse than that, she said.

At the time of her diagnosis, she joined AOL chat rooms, which she said were popular at that time, about the disease where she spoke to someone named Rob from Maryland who had the HSCT procedure during a more advanced stage of MS.

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Caldwell resident fighting battle with multiple sclerosis

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