Waikanae resident Dave Drury knew something was wrong when he couldn't feel the water around him while swimming in Lake Taupō on a Christmas holiday back in 1994.

Swimming in the lake can cause people to go numb on any given day but Dave knew something was wrong.

"I couldn't feel the temperature of the water on my legs — it was like my leg was numb," he recalls.

Shortly after the unusual experience swimming Dave found himself with double vision, unable to see properly, leading to a trip to his GP and more tests at Wellington Hospital.


It was soon confirmed that at 26 Dave had multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease which attacks the central nervous system and causes communication issues between the brain and the rest of the body.

Dave Drury.
Dave Drury.

"I was told by my GP that I would likely be in a wheelchair within five years.

"It was quite a surreal feeling."

Dave and his wife Ali spent the next three days in the library researching the disease and found that although he might have to give up some of his sport and physical activity the diagnosis wasn't necessarily going to be a prison sentence.

The MS started affecting his strength, ability to walk easily, his short-term memory and his ability to easily find the words he wanted to say.

Despite his debilitating condition Dave never allowed MS get him down.

An electrician by trade, he has continued to do odd electrical jobs for clients in Kāpiti, remained social and active at the gym along with raising his two daughters.

After 20 years of coping with MS, Dave's journey took a dramatic turn when he saw a feature on 60 Minutes about an Australian woman who had successfully had hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), an intensive chemotherapy treatment that aims to stop and in some cases, reverse the damage MS causes by wiping out and then re-growing your immune system using your own stem cells.

After speaking to his neurologist and after lots of research, the couple decided this was the way forward.

However, the treatment is not approved, and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand only supports this form of treatment 'within a clinical trial setting under established international protocols,' meaning there was no funding for the treatment in New Zealand.

The only guarantee for Dave was at his current rate he would soon be in a wheelchair so the decision was made to get the treatment at Clinica Ruiz in Puebla, Mexico.

With 78 per cent of patients having positive results Dave said, "If I didn't do it and ended up in a wheelchair in a couple of years, I would always wonder 'what-if?'"

So last month Dave and Ali headed to Mexico, hoping it would be a life-changing trip.

"I was very nervous and excited.

"I didn't know how sick I would get but I responded well and am grateful that I had access to funds to undergo this procedure."

Dave and Ali spent a month at Clinica Ruiz, the largest centre in the world conducting HSCT for autoimmune diseases.

They stayed in an apartment complex with 10 other patients, each with a caregiver.

The group was from all over the world, ranging in age from 24 to 60 years old.

"I can't fault the experience.

"The care I received in Mexico was top-notch.

"Because I was in a group of 10 other patients the support system was amazing."

On returning home, Dave is taking it easy as his body rebuilds and his immune system returns to normal.

A very low white blood cell count means being careful what he eats and touches so as not to pick up any infections.

"I was very lucky that the chemotherapy didn't make me nauseous and I responded well.

"I will have tests in six months and again at 12 months.

"If my symptoms haven't progressed then I will know it has worked for me."