An autoimmune disorder left a Wellington man struggling to walk 100 metres, but two years after getting ground-breaking treatment he has completed a 10km run and regularly goes mountain biking. Hamish Bockett-Smith, 42, lost feeling in his right arm and hand in 2001. It was initially diagnosed as a pinched nerve but six months later he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, the IT expert suffered symptoms such as temporary blindness and agonising pains in his feet. He never regained feeling in his arm. "I wasn't able to walk more than 100m. It was getting pretty close to wheelchair or walker material really," he said. "The fatigue was just debilitating. I'd have 12 hours of sleep during the night and I'd get up and take the kids to school in the car and school was only five minutes down the road but I couldn't even walk that far. By the time I got home I was just exhausted." With funded treatments no longer working, he and his family decided the best option was to spend $160,000 on haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) at Raffles Hospital in Singapore. Last week the Herald on Sunday told the story of Donna Agnew who was struck down with MS months after giving birth to her first child last year and is fundraising for the same treatment in Russia. She has now raised almost $35,000 and is one of eight Kiwis on Givealittle fundraising for HSCT. In May 2015 Bockett-Smith flew out for the treatment, which is not available to MS sufferers in New Zealand. First he had a day of chemotherapy, then for five days he injected himself with a drug to make his body over-produce bone marrow stem cells. Next he was hooked up to a machine for eight hours and had 40 million stem cells harvested. The last phase of the treatment saw him put in isolation and given five days of chemotherapy to "annihilate" his immune system to kill the body's memory of the disease before the stem cells were pumped back in. But the cost and the suffering was worth it. His condition has slowly improved over time.
I wasn't able to walk more than 100m. It was getting pretty close to wheelchair or walker material.Auckland woman Maureen Wood, 70, had HSCT at Healthcare Global in Bangalore, India a year ago. She was diagnosed with MS when she was 47 and lost the ability to walk 10 years ago. Since the treatment she had regained some movement in her right leg but, more importantly, she felt healthier. "I sure haven't regretted it. I feel totally different." She was now focused on rehabilitation to make the most of the movement she had regained. Because of her age Wood had not seen results as dramatic as some younger people but said one of the major benefits from the treatment was the hope it brought. "I'll never give up the dream [of walking]."