`If I had not gone to China I would have always wondered `what if', so I am glad in that sense that I went'
BALLINDERRY man Alan Stitt who had a month long controversial stem cell treatment last year in China to help battle Motor Neurone Disease says he would return again for the vigorous procedure if his condition ever worsened.
The former kitchen fitter, who has been suffering from the illness for a year now says that while the treatment - which included stem cell transplant, physiotherapy and acupuncture - slowed his condition he feels that it has not cured him.
He says he is not disappointed and has never regretted taking the decision to go. Alan said he would go again if he ever became wheelchair bound.
Alan said that when he returned from China in October 2008 he felt the treatment helped his balance and he was able to walk well for a while. However, in the past few months he feels his balance has slowly worsened, his wrists have got weaker and his speech is deteriorating.
"I feel that the physiotherapy definitely helped my balance but because I am not getting the same physio anymore my balance is going as a result," he said.
"I've only fallen once, in the kitchen, when I fell back onto the door which stopped my fall. I can go up stairs but coming down them is a problem. I feel that because my wrists are getting weaker I may not be able to drive for much longer. I can just about hold a cup of tea but need two hands to do it."
A nurse from the Royal Victoria Hospital who is in regular contact with Alan by phone recently went out to see him and was surprised by what she saw. She told Alan that she had expected his condition to have deteriorated a lot more quickly.
"That could be the condition that I have or it could be the treatment I got in China may have been a factor, I don't really know," he said. "I don't know if it has slowed it down but I know the nurse was surprised to see how well I was doing but then again every person is different. I have been told that I can get the treatment again after six months but I will wait until I really need it.
"If I had not gone to China I would have always wondered 'what if', so I am glad in that sense that I went. I read about the young girl from Newtownabbey who went over and she was in the same hospital and ward as me. She went over to get her sight back and it seems to have worked for her.
"So it does work for some people but I feel that it is the physiotherapy that helped me more than any of the other treatments."
He also believes the same type of treatment should be widely available in the UK for the many people like him suffering from muscle weakening conditions.
"I would go again but not go until I was in a wheelchair," he said. "It is a lot of money to go to China. It cost £18,000 and most of it went on travel: If the same sort of treatment was done here or even in England I would definitely have a repeat course.
Plans are now in place for Alan to move from his house in Ballinderry to get a wheelchair accessible house at Knockmore. He hopes to move into his new house by October.