Para-athlete banks on experimental cure in MS battle Ex-runner to try ground-breaking stem cell therapy
FOR former marathon runner Stacey Hurrrell a flight to Mexico represents the long-awaited chance to beat a disease that has ravaged her body.
The mother-of-three will undergo ground-breaking Haemeotopathic Stem Cell Treatment (HSCT) in a bid to beat multiple sclerosis, a cruel illness that has robbed Mrs Hurrell of her boundless energy.
Just four years ago, the 38-year-old was a champion distance runner. Now she relies on a mobility scooter.
The potential lifeline in Mexico represents a triumph for community spirit and old-fashioned neighbourliness. In just six months, family and friends have raised £40,000 towards the month-long treatment. Former geography teacher Mrs Hurrell, from Hagley, Worcestershire, has also taken out a £5,000 loan.
Sister Hayley Burton-Pye admitted that the flight this week was make-orbreak in Mrs Hurrell’s bid to return to the family life she treasured.
“Since being diagnosed in 2014, Stacey has gone downhill rapidly,” the 36-year-old said. “It is really bad.
“But Stacey is such an inspiration. She never moans, she is so determined and headstrong. She’s a remarkable lady.”
Those close to the former athlete admit they have been shocked by the speed at which MS has struck.
In 2013, Mrs Hurrell completed backto-back marathons in London and Edinburgh. But one leg dragged slightly during those 26-mile runs and, after looking up the symptoms online, she feared she may be in the early stages of MS.
Her worst fears were confirmed medics in 2014.
MS rapidly took a vice-like grip on Mrs Hurrell, a woman capable of running a half-marathon in one hour, 45 minutes.
Even after the bombshell Mrs Hurrell, who taught at by diagnosis, Pedmore Technology College and Kingswinford School, continued to compete. In 2015, she became a para-athlete who excelled in the 100m, 200m and long jump.
She was ranked number one in the UK and gained three gold medals for England in the World Games. Stacey was even poised to take part in the Rio Paralympics. But MS shattered that dream. The personal tragedy, however, has galvanised Mrs Hurrell’s community and family and friends have worked tirelessly to raise the cash needed to send her to Mexico.
Husband Robbie will stay at home and look after children Alex, 14, Evie, 10, and seven-year-old Logan while Mrs Hurrell undergoes the Mexican procedure.
Mrs Hurrell first became aware of HSCT through a BBC documentary. It is a radical procedure that has divided the medical community.
DocTours, a website dedicated to medical tourism, states: “Ultimately, the patient has the right to choose medical treatment. Why not explore every avenue for a cure, even if against the advice of their own doctor (as is often the case)?
“Remember when the US prohibited chiropractic and liposuction? It’s your call, judging the ethics of medical professionals who promote new treatments, perhaps before conclusively tested, versus those who oppose successful procedures even after they have a proven track record.”
HSCT is being trialled in the UK. Initial results have been dubbed “promising” by the National Institute of Health.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the trials, said: “If the findings from this study are confirmed, it may become a potential therapeutic option for people with this often debilitating disease, particularly those who have not been helped by standard treatments.”
Stacey Hurrell, and top, now reduced to using a scooter after the onset of MS
> Stacey Hurrell before MS struck