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You can’t imagine what living with ataxia means and what it does to the body. I’ve had ataxia for more than 15 years, and sometimes I couldn’t even remember what it was like before. Just think, wanting to pick up a fork and not being able to grab it of the table, or wanting to drink some water and having to ask somebody else to hold it up for you.
Ataxia is a neurological sign consisting of a lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements, and for 15 years I have struggled to get a grip, so to stay, on it. And finally now I’ve had. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Jeffrey B. and I’m a former high school football coach from Austin, Texas. I was always an independent kind of guy. I never liked asking for help, and I tried to do everything by myself. And that’s the kind of spirit I tried to impose on my team too. I was really happy with my job. The kids loved me and I loved them. The team was good. I mean really GOOD! But that wasn’t enough for me. I pushed them even harder. That’s when it all happened.
It was a cold November morning. I was out on the field with the boys, having them run plays. Half an hour in the training, it started raining. My second couch told me to break and get inside until the rain stops. But I wasn’t going to let a little water stop my practice. We kept going. ”Blue 48! Blue 48! Hut! Hut! HIKE!” It was one of our special plays. Then, the ball went out of bounds, and two boys tackled me trying to catch it. I got knocked out on the players bench and woke up in the lockers with the whole team around me. ”Are you OK coach? You took a pretty nasty hit.” I stood up and checked for blood. Nothing. ”I’m OK boys. It’s going to take more than this to bench me.”
I got up, called it a day and went home. The first few days after wheren’t any special. Just a few balance problems, but I just thought I was tired. The next few weeks were when it really hit me. I started dropping things, I had problems standing up or even in a chair. I went to the hospital and after some tests I was diagnosed with ataxia. And after I found out what can cause it, it started to make sense. When I got tackled, I sustained some injuries to my upper spinal cord, and that’s what triggered it.
I tried to beat it at first. I pushed my body and tried to exercise harder. But no use. It got even worse. I began searching for treatments on the internet, and found out that stem cell therapy might do the trick. I found a clinic in China and got in touch with them. I went over there for the first time and stayed for about a month. There were some signs of improvement, but nothing conclusive. Their doctor said that it might take some time for it to take effect. I went back home.
A few weeks later I woke up and tried to stand up on the edge of the bed. I fell right over. You can’t imagine what I felt. All that money, all the treatments, all that time… for nothing. I was back to square one. I wrote the clinic in China another e-mail and told them what happened. They told me to go back for another round of the treatment. A month later I was back there and started the treatment again. This time there weren’t any signs of improvement what so ever. I came back to the States and sank into a deep depression. I didn’t eat anything for days. Some days I wouldn’t even try to get out of bed.
One morning, the bell rang. I went to open the door and saw all my team there. I won’t lie: I started crying. Over the next week they came every day and visited me. One day, my second coach came and told me about an ataxia support group that met weekly at the Community Center. I wasn’t really up to having a bunch of people listen to my sad story and pat me on the back saying that it’ll all be ok. But after a few meetings I was a regular. I even made some friends and started exchanging stories.
One day, during a meeting, a guy from a company called PlacidWay started telling us about a doctor from Mexico that uses stem cell therapy at his clinic. After his presentation, I waited and told him about my experience with the Chinese clinic. He gave me his card and told me to e-mail him and set up an appointment. The doctor’s name was Dr. Omar Gonzalez and the clinic was named the Integrative Medical Center. I wrote them an e-mail about a week later and made an appointment. I went over there and started another round of stem cell treatment. I have to say, I was skeptical at first. But after about two weeks I started to see improvements. And there weren’t just little things. My balance improved, I could coordinate my hands better and a lot of others.
The treatment cost me around $12000, but it was worth it. I can do almost everything I used to, with some restrictions, of course. Be that as it may, I cannot express my gratitude for PlacidWay, Dr. Gonzalez and his team. I would recommend them to any and all of my friends that need help battling this awful affliction. I started working again with the team, but nowadays I keep clear of the edge of the pitch.