Radical new treatment for multiple sclerosis is being credited for getting a New Zealand woman's life on track.
After undergoing stem cell treatment in May, Howick mother-of-two Faye Braddock has returned from Moscow feeling like she's a new woman.
Braddock has lived with multiple sclerosis - a long-lasting autoimmune disease affecting the spinal cord, brain and central nervous system - for 14 years.
There is no cure for MS. However, there is an experimental treatment called Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (AHSCT). Advocates claim AHSCT can curb the debilitating symptoms of MS.
Stem cell transplants were carried out to stop the disease progressing rather than repair what has already been damaged.
As part of the process, stem cells are taken from the patient's bone marrow or peripheral blood and stored in sub-zero temperatures. The patient then undergoes a high dose of chemotherapy before the stem cells are replanted.
As soon as a vacancy became available for treatment in Moscow - no easy feat, as there was a three-year waiting list - Braddock managed to raise funds of $74,000.
Extra costs such as MRI scans were around $5000 and there were travel costs of $3000.
She was able to do all this through fund raising efforts of her own and through a Givealittle page.
Braddock told The Aucklander losing her hair due to chemotherapy and wearing a wig until it grew back was a small price to pay considering her life had completely turned around.
"After my immune system rebuilt itself, it had no recollection of my condition.
"All I wanted was to be cured and to be there for my children, it's been so successful," said Braddock.
Deborah Harrison, Braddock's physiotherapist at CoRe Community Rehab, said she ntoiced dramatic change to her client after she returned from Russia.
"The significant thing I noticed was the multiple sclerosis fatigue was no longer present," Harrison said.
"Before the treatment, if Faye walked fast, one side of her body would limp as she brought her leg through. I managed to actually go on a wee run with her yesterday.
"Treatment has included resistance work with a Theraband, body weight resistance and a good cardio respiratory workout," said Harrison.
Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand national manager Amanda Keefe said it was very hard to quantify the effectiveness of new stem cell treatments.
She said most New Zealand participants were not involved with clinical trials so it was difficult to measure any success other than improved quality of life, wellbeing and self-reported improvement.
"We have heard a number of anecdotal reports of people receiving benefits post treatment, however there are also cases where little to no benefit has been achieved," Keefe said.
"International evidence is showing those with early, active relapsing forms of MS who have tried but are not responding to current treatments are showing the most benefit.
"We're interested in understanding the long term benefits of people with MS in New Zealand.
"For people with very active MS, halting any further disability progression, whether it's for two years or for 10, is a significant success," said Keefe.
Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand did not provide funding for people with MS to access treatment either in New Zealand or overseas.
Instead, the organisation focused on advocating for access to first world treatment, resources and services to improve their well-being and quality of life.
MSNZ had no data on successful treatment of MS in New Zealand as this was not regulated and there was no formal recording system.
What is multiple sclerosis?
MS is a demyelinating serious health condition which gets worse over time.
The body's natural protection against illness (the immune system) damages fatty coverings called myelin sheaths around the axons of cells called neurons in the central nervous system.
The disease makes people's bodies, speech, eyesight, and minds work poorly.
People with MS do not normally live as long as healthy people.
MS is three times more prevalent in women than in men.