Paralyzed man finds hope in China

Thursday, February 3, 2005

There were days right after his accident that David Landewee didn't want want to think about physical therapy or learn how to maneuver in a wheelchair. A spinal cord injury left him without the use of his back and lower body.

But a surgical procedure unavailable in the United States could help him regain some movement in his legs.

Landewee, a native of Cape Girardeau who now lives in the Kansas City, Mo., area, will travel to China Feb. 23 for a surgery that could regenerate the damaged nerves in his spine.

Landewee said that MRI scans and X-rays show that he's an ideal candidate for implants using olfactory ensheathing glial cells collected from fetuses aborted during the second trimester of pregnancy.

"It shows the perfect spot" for the implants, he said of the MRIs.

The surgery is costly -- almost $25,000 when travel expenses are included -- and isn't a certainty.

The procedure includes implanting more than 4,000 cells into the spinal cord. There is a possibility he can expect four levels of sensation from greater motor skills to feeling in his stomach and midsection after the surgery.

Implants using the olfactory cells are being conducted in the United States but not in human trials. The government has banned embryonic stem cell research beyond the cell lines that already exist.

The Chinese doctor who will do the surgeries has completed more than 500 similar procedures on other spinal cord patients. Some people with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, are beginning to get the surgeries in hopes of gaining back some muscle movement they've lost because of the disease. Jim Trickey, a Cape Girardeau man who has Lou Gehrig's disease, expects to have the OEG cell implant surgery in May.

Landewee has taken great pains to make his body ready for the surgery. He's had rods taken out of his back, gotten rid of scar tissue and had several MRIs taken over the years.

"The best thing you can do is keep your body in the best physical condition," he said. "Range of motion and stretching are important."

Donations to help pay for the cost of the surgery are being accepted at the Bank of Missouri. Donations can be mailed to the David Landewee Fund at the bank, 3427 William St., Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63701.

335-6611, extension 126

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