Dates were agreed, flights were booked, special assistance was arranged, and coach travel from my home to the airport was organized.Knowing that there are other health conditions that might make the treatment impossible, or ill-advised, I spoke with Dr. Denis Fedorenko, head of HSCT therapy in Moscow, by phone and asked his opinion. He asked me to travel to Russia so he could oversee four days of tests before making a final assessment.
But that was not enough. I had to obtain a visa from the Russian Embassy before traveling; and as a British citizen living in Spain, that was no easy matter. But, eventually, it was granted and I was set to travel.
The plane touched down at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport close to 5.15 a.m. on Monday of last week, where a hospital car and driver were waiting. Learning that this was my first time in Russia, he whisked me on a diversion into the city itself, showing me Red Square, the Kremlin, and the Bolshoi Ballet. “And that,” he said, indicating a nondescript office block, “used to be the headquarters of the KGB.”
I didn’t ask about its current use.
That day was the start of the most exhaustive and exhausting series of medical checks in my entire life. They included MRI scans of my brain and spine, as well as my chest and abdomen, and ultrasound scans of the veins in my legs.
Decision day was Thursday, when Dr. Fedorenko came to my room with all the results. The key findings were:
- I have progressive MS, but all lesions in both my brain and spine are inactive
- My prognosis, according to Dr. Fedorenko, is that the MS is unlikely to progress and, if it does, it will only do so slowly
- My heart (I already knew had an irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation) is totally OK on one side and, overall, pumps 10 percent less blood than it should
- My lungs operate at 90 percent capacity
- My vitamin D level is below the usual scale
Based on the fact that my MS is inactive and that chemotherapy could pose a threat to my heart, Dr. Fedorenko took the totally understandable decision that HSCT is not for me.
“In your case, with the MS not progressing, the benefits of the treatment do not outweigh the risks to your heart,” he said.
In short, as MS progression is currently stalled with inactive lesions, for which I am grateful and in a happy place, I don’t need HSCT.
This article, written by me, first appeared on Multiple Sclerosis New Today.
50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.