Fort woman is first in Scotland to have groundbreaking drug
A FORT WILLIAM woman with MS has become the first hematopoietic stem cell treatment (HSCT) patient to receive rituximab in Scotland.
Frances O’Connell, from Caol, travelled to Mexico last year for a groundbreaking stem cell surgery which aims to stop MS in its tracks.
But the 47-year- old needs infusions of the rituximab drug, which is used to treat certain autoimmune diseases and types of cancer.
Until now, the drug has not been available for MS patients in Scotland, meaning Frances has been making the journey down to Manchester to receive her treatment. However, earlier this month Frances and husband Stewart got word that she would be able to get the drug at a private hospital in Edinburgh. Speaking to the Lochaber
Times Frances said: ‘I am absolutely delighted for future HSCT MS patients that we have had this great breakthrough in Scotland.
‘We have actually done something about it and now more patients in Scotland can get their infusions here.’
Before venturing to Mexico, Frances had called round all the private hospitals thinking ‘surely someone would do it in Scotland’. But with no luck finding any doctor to administer the treatment here, she had to make two trips down to Manchester.
She said: ‘That drive to Manchester takes a lot out of me. It would take a lot out of a healthy person so it really did have adverse effects on me. It took me almost four weeks to recover.
‘But going to Edinburgh was like a day out. Rather than travelling down the day before and then having the long drive coming back, we were able to do it all in one day.
‘It’s quite stressful having to do everything for yourself, calling the hospital and sorting appointments and all while I am still trying to recover from my treatment in Mexico. So now I am glad it has been sorted out and I don’t have to stress about where I am going to go.’
Speaking about her recovery, Frances said the good days are starting to outnumber the bad.
‘It’s amazing how positive you become when you see it starting to work in your favour,’ said Frances.
‘The improvements I have seen at home is in my walking, and the distance I am able to do. Now I can even cycle a short distance, and I am improving every time. I try to push myself further all the time and every time I do manage, it boosts my confidence for the next time, even if it’s just a minute.
‘I still get bouts of fatigue because I still have MS and I always will. But I would rather talk about the positive things I am seeing, especially in my energy levels and the fact I have less brain fog.’
Frances has even been thinking about returning to work. ‘I am preparing myself to go back to work, which I am so excited about, she said.
‘I don’t know if I will manage or how much I will be able to do, but I feel like going back to work and meeting people again is healthy.
‘Going back to doing things that I used to do over a year ago now really does excite me because it’s another goal I can aim for.
‘I still have to remind myself that my recovery is a marathon, not a sprint, and I have to take my time. If anything I have discovered that art of being patient.’