Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Alan returns from China with hope

Ballinderry man will know by Christmas if stem cell treatment has been a success


A BALLINDERRY man has returned home after receiving controversial stem cell treatment in China but will have to wait until Christmas to know if it has worked.

Alan Stitt now recovering at home.Alan Stitt (44), who suffers from Motor Neurone disease, spent a month receiving stem cell transplants obtained from umbilical cord blood to repair damaged cells and tissues at a hospital in Quindao near Beijing.

But Alan, who spent his 44th birthday undergoing his first treatment on September 11, is hopeful the treatment has been all worthwhile.

He has been warned the treatment will not take effect for 75 days, but believes he can already see and feel the benefits.

"I feel I can balance better and have more strength in my legs, whether that has anything to do with the stem cells or the physiotherapy I received there I don't know," he said.

"I could not put foot to heel and walk before but I can now. I still have to concentrate when I walk and am unsteady if I go down on a slope but I feel a definite improvement.

Alan in China with some of the hospital staff.When the nurses heard it was his birthday they brought him a cake and sang 'Happy Birthday'.

"They were really nice and the treated me so well," Alan said. "I would have no hesitation of going back again. If anyone is unsure I would say the, should definitely go. I would go again tomorrow."

Friends and family rallied round to raise up to 18,000 and the remaining money will help him make the same trip again if needed.

Alan, who went to China with wife Barbara and his mother, had a slight setback at first.

He was suffering from a sore throat so treatment had to be delayed. Once the throat cleared Alan underwent physio, acupuncture and wave therapy daily, which he found helpful, before he had the weekly transplants.

Alan knows some people are not convinced by the treatment.

'As I told my consultant, who asked me why I would put myself through this - what option did I have?" Alan had the chance to meet people from all over the world who were suffering from various conditions but who all hoped the treatment would help. One seven year old child who had been blind from birth was returning home after the treatment and could see shapes.

Barbara praised her husband for taking the brave step to go.

"Alan could have just sat here and done nothing but he went ahead and never complained," she said. After Alan's spinal injection treatments he had to stay in the same position for six hours and was not even allowed to lift his head for food. Most of the time he slept.

When he did get up he suffered from a 'heavy' headache. But he noticed that a groin injury he had suffered from since his days as a football player had disappeared.

Alan, who now has to wait until Christmas before he will know if the treatment has worked, also had time to wonder how he contracted Motor Neurone Disease.

"I have been in contact with someone who, like myself, played football all his life, was a kitchen fitter and also contracted the condition," said Alan.

"I don't know it could be the type of glue that you use or the fertiliser used on pitches. I read an article that a certain type of fertiliser could have caused the condition but I don't know. It seems strange that two perfectly healthy men who played football are suffering from this."

Barbara said she would like to thank everyone who helped them raise 18,000 and also her employers who allowed her four week emergency leave to travel with Alan.

Ulster Star