Kids stoked to get dad back

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - ILLYA MCLEL­LAN

A risky $170,000 treat­ment has given a fa­ther of three the chance to play with his young kids again.

Ear­lier this year, Nick Perkins, from Carter­ton, could only watch as his two sons played rugby in the yard, be­cause of the de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fects of his mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

De­ter­mined to be fully in­volved with his fam­ily, he and wife Danielle de­cided a cou­ple of years ago to com­mit to rais­ing nearly $200,000 to fund a stem cell trans­plant over­seas. In April, the 34-year-old trav­elled to Sin­ga­pore for the 11-week treat­ment, after rais­ing $170,000 from dona­tions from all over New Zealand.

The IT worker has been home for three months, and has re­cov­ered so well that he can now play with sons Thomas, 5, and Lach­lan, 3, out­side. ‘‘It’s su­per good, his brain is fixed. I like play­ing rugby with him,’’ Thomas said.

Lach­lan’s favourite thing is be­ing able ‘‘to squeeze him’’.

Perkins’ treat­ment – called an au­tol­o­gous haematopoi­etic stem cell trans­plant (AHSCT) – is not avail­able in New Zealand. It in­volves re­mov­ing a pa­tient’s own stem cells, fol­lowed by in­ten­sive chemo­ther­apy to sup­press and rest the im­mune sys­tem, stop­ping it from at­tack­ing the body. The stem cells are then put back in, with the hope the dis­ease has been stalled. There are known risks with such ag­gres­sive treat­ment, and at one stage Perkins got a blood in­fec­tion, but doc­tors were able to iso­late the prob­lem and deal with it.

There is no ques­tion in Perkins’ mind that the treat­ment was

WHAT IS MS?

Mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis is dis­or­der of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, in­clud­ing the brain, spinal cord and op­tic nerves. worth­while, and he is pleas­antly sur­prised at how well he has re­cov­ered after the surgery.

‘‘I’ve been back at work for a few weeks now, and will shortly be back to work­ing full weeks, which is some­thing I was not ex­pect­ing to be able to do so soon.

‘‘There have been sev­eral ar­eas of im­prove­ment. I had op­tic neu­ri­tis in my left eye, which has im­proved, I had weak­ness and pain in my right knee, which has gone, and the fa­tigue I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing has cleared right up.’’

It was an or­deal for the young fam­ily, with the boys not re­ally un­der­stand­ing why their dad had to go away for such a long time. But the cou­ple are adamant they would do it again.

Danielle said she took her mind off Nick’s long ab­sence by stay­ing busy, which was easy to do with a com­bi­na­tion of work, the two boys and be­ing preg­nant with their now 2-week-old daugh­ter Tilly.

‘‘We stayed in touch through Skype but Thomas found it hard to talk to Nick on cam­era, be­cause he missed him so much. We all re­ally missed him, it was emo­tion­ally tax­ing on ev­ery­one, but the end re­sult made it worth it.

‘‘We would love to help other peo­ple get the treat­ment if they need it, and have set up a char­ity so we can. Any­one with MS should have a chance to get the treat­ment.’’

Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis So­ci­ety of New Zealand na­tional man­ager Amanda Rose said a grow­ing num­ber of Ki­wis were trav­el­ling abroad for haematopoi­etic stem cell trans­plants, and many were re­turn­ing with pos­i­tive re­sults. To sup­port the Perkins’ char­ity, visit perkins.net.nz

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