5TH ANNUAL RALLY WILL BE HELD SEPT 22TH, 2012
5th ANNUAL RALLY FOR ALI
IN SEARCH OF A CURE FOR DIABETES
ALL DONATIONS WILL GO TO HARVARD STEM CELL INSTITUTE
PICNIC FOR A CAUSE
KRAUSE’S GROVE, 2 Beach Road, Halfmoon, NY
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2013
1:00 PM TO 6:00 PM ~ RAIN OR SHINE
$30.00 per adult ticket at gate - $20.00 for children under 12
includes donation to Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
5 hour picnic with soda, beer, games, raffles, 50/50, live music
JAMBONE - THE BEAR BONES PROJECT - BLUE HAND LUKE
SPECIAL GUEST APPEARANCE BY AWARD-WINNING IRISH STEP DANCER
GRACE CATHERINE MOMROW (Ali’s cousin)
Abundant food and dessert being served 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Those who wish to join a pre-picnic motorcycle cavalcade around the beautiful Tomhannock Reservoir in Ali’s honor will meet at the Troy Plaza on Hoosick Street at 10:00 A.M. for sign up and the cavalcade will kick off at 11:00 A.M. sharp.
For more info: https://www.facebook.com/Rally4Ali
For Further Information
For the Run, Wally Urzan
For the Picnic & Cause
Sunday, June 5, 2011
‘Patient A’ proud to carry hopes
By Bill Torpy
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
CHATOM, Ala. — Every now and then, Timothy J. Atchison thinks he feels a little something when rubbing his legs.
But he knows to temper any feelings of excitement or optimism. Left paralyzed from the chest down after a car crash last fall, the baby-faced 21-year-old reminds himself that it could be simply phantom feelings.
A lot rides on his immobile legs — they carry the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of severely injured people. Atchison is Patient A, the formerly anonymous person who volunteered to have embryonic stem cells injected into his spine. It was the first such human trial; the start of a long, uncertain process that one day could lead to treatments that reverse paralysis.
News of the ground-breaking medical experiment that took place last October in Atlanta quickly shot around the world, thrilling many, but troubling others who feel using embryonic cells is destroying human life.
Atchison, a Southern Baptist who until recently remained anonymous because of concerns about such controversy, said he has come forward because his course of treatment is nothing to be ashamed of or to keep secret.
“How can you be upset with anyone being able to walk?” he said from his home near Chatom, an outpost in the sandy pine forests of southwest Alabama. “People are rooting for me.”
Atchison, a nursing student everyone calls T.J., was vaguely aware of stem-cell research before all this. But the monumental implications of it struck him as he lay in his hospital bed, recuperating from the procedure, and flipped on the TV.
“We turned on the news, and it was everywhere. I’m watching it and [thinking,] ‘They’re talking about me.’ I had no idea how big a deal it was.”
Eight months later, after a stint at the Shepherd Center, Atchison is back at home with his mother and stepdad and younger siblings. His days lately are unremarkable: watching his little sister, visiting with his cousin, piddling with his computer, maybe catching a movie. The low-key Atchison can’t wait for fall, when he will return to his friends and nursing studies back at the University of South Alabama. He can’t wait to get his life started again after this terrible hiatus.
Phase 1 progress
He receives his experimental treatment at Shepherd. It is funded by Geron Corp., a California company that describes embryonic stem cells as “immortal,” able to “divide endlessly in tissue culture,” according to its website. The cells come from unused frozen embryos at a fertility clinic and have the potential to produce a substance called myelin, which would recoat spinal nerve cells and transmit impulses.
But Atchison knows he might not see any benefit from the treatment. He is in Phase 1 of the trial, which is being conducted to determine whether the cells will be accepted by his body and grow normally. Doctors are monitoring him to see whether any tumors develop. There have been none, he said.
Dr. Donald Peck Leslie, Shepherd’s medical director, said the first step, while historic, is still relatively simple. “First, do no harm. We’re not out to save the world or cure paralysis in this phase.”
About 10 patients are needed for the first phase. If the injections successfully take, researchers will use a higher dose in the next phase, hoping to generate sensation and movement.
But the process has been slower than anticipated. Only one other patient is taking part in Phase 1. That patient is being monitored by Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago.
“We thought we’d have 10 in a year,” Leslie said. “But here we are coming in on nine months” with only two patients.
The problem is not a lack of volunteers, he said. It’s the lack of patients who qualify for the study’s stringent guidelines. The injured patient must be injured mid-spine, and treatment must occur before there’s scarring.
Atchison’s mother, Anita McDonald, sensed something was up when she called Shepherd just days after the accident, hoping to get him admitted. She had heard it was hard to get into renowned spinal center, but she sensed the woman on the line was deeply interested in her son.
“They asked for his level of injury, his age and his health,” said McDonald, who runs a day care in Chatom. “He fit in those categories. They kept asking me questions.”
McDonald’s cellphone kept cutting out because of her area’s remote location. But, on her home phone, Shepherd had left messages. Doctors there wanted to see her son.
Nothing to lose
In his room at Shepherd, Atchison, who suffered a complete break at the T7 disc in his upper back, was approached by a team of doctors.
“They asked me if I was willing to go into research. I said yes. I figured everyone there was in research,” he said.
He was surprised when they mentioned the stem-cell therapy, thinking it was years, if not decades from reality.
“They said this could be the best thing for you to get better,” Atchison said. “To anyone who’s paralyzed, that’s what you want to hear.”
His mother concurred.
“The doctors said [his spinal break] was complete, that he can’t walk again. His feeling was, ‘What do I have to lose?’ ”
The family was vaguely aware of the stem cell debate. Right to Life groups and others contend using embryonic stem cells is taking a life. Others argue that it’s a “slippery slope” toward creating life to be used almost as spare parts.
“We thought it was God’s will to get in there, that they approached him,” said McDonald. “How could it be so perfect if [God] wasn’t involved?”
Atchison cut in, “We’re not destroying any life with embryonic stem cells. They’d be destroyed anyway.”
Atchison hasn’t heard any negative comments about his choice, although he has read some online. He shrugged when asked about such opinions. He doesn’t want to dwell there. He has tried to remain positive and upbeat from the start, comforting devastated family members and friends who came to visit him in the hospital.
His demeanor has impressed his doctors and his fellow Chatom residents, who have known Atchison’s secret since last fall and who have rallied in support. The local hardware store donated lumber for a wheelchair ramp that a Christian group built for him. A large banner hangs in a restaurant: “Pray it Forward for T.J.” It carries a couple hundred signatures and well-wishes.
Atchison, who four years ago was a feisty 135-pound strong safety for the Washington High football team, realizes he is carrying the hopes of thousands, if not millions.
“I had no idea I had touched so many lives,” he said.
But he knows any improvements to his own situation are a longshot. His place in the experiment is simply to wait to see if his body accepts the injection.
“They’re making big steps. Hopefully, 10 to 15 years from now, people can walk again,” said Atchison. “It’s exciting I made history, I guess.”