Fort woman is first in Scot­land to have ground­break­ing drug

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

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.’

Frances O’Con­nell.

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