Saturday 10 December 2016

Parents looking to clinic in China for little Luke's stem cell treatment

Eilish O’Regan

Published 13/12/2011 | 06:00

Hope: Arlene Renehan with two-year-old Luke who has difficulty eating
Hope: Arlene Renehan with two-year-old Luke who has difficulty eating

One Irish couple is hoping to send their son to China for stem cell treatment for cerebral palsy. Luke Renehan (two), Ballylinan, Athy, Co Laois, cannot crawl or sit on his own. He must be fed by a tube and although he is very alert and lively, his speech development is also slow for his age.

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Luke's parents Arlene and David are pursuing a treatment involving the injection of stem cells into the spinal cord.

They are a growing number of parents and adult patients who are looking to stem cell research to provide hope outside conventional treatments available.

They are trying to raise more than €80,000 to fund visits to the clinic, which is located thousands of miles from Beijing.

They are are also hoping to put funds towards Bobath therapy in the UK for Luke, where physiotherapists provide therapy to help children and their families manage the problems that cerebral palsy presents.

Bobath involves an approach that includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy.

Luke was born three months premature.

"They carried out a scan and found he had a bleed on both sides of the brain. It was not too severe and we did not know what impact it would have on him," says Arlene.

However, Luke's motor skills were not developing as they should and he was checked by a physiotherapist and referred to a consultant who diagnosed cerebral palsy.

"The areas of the brain that are affected cover his motor skills and affect his arms and legs. We were feeding him normally but now he is fed by a tube -- pieces of food were getting into his lungs and it was becoming too dangerous.

"It is too early to say if he will have any major learning difficulties but he knows how to interact and recognises people's names. He is becoming frustrated now because he sees his cousins running around," says Arlene.

"We know he has a lot of capability and have researched this thoroughly. China is the most advanced when it comes to this treatment."

The treatment involves the injection of umbilical cells into the spinal cord, which flows to the brain to help damaged cells.

"We are told it has a very good success rate and we are just hoping for the best. We are under no illusions. Luke has multiple problems. It is supposed to have a good success rate in helping children with swallowing difficulties."

The couple have already raised a significant sum thanks to the support of friends who have organised various events.

All donations can be made to the Luke Renehan Trust Fund at the Bank of Ireland Athy. Sort code: 90 09 65. Account number: 88 54 78 00.

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