Doctors had given up all hope for paralysed young mum Leona... until stem cell miracle

BRAVE: Mum now bonding with baby after strokes in pregnancy

Geraldine Gittens

A YOUNG Dublin mum who suffered two massive strokes when she was six months pregnant -- and was left paralysed on one side -- is recovering after going abroad for miracle stem cell treatment.

Leona Vickers (33) collapsed in her apartment in May 2008 and fell into a coma. Doctors had to perform an emergency C-section to save her baby while she was on a respirator.

Irish doctors had said there was no hope for Leona, but soon after Ben was born the Tallaght mother opened her eyes in Beaumont Hospital and began to show signs of improvement after extensive rehabilitation.

Her uncle Sean recalled: "She suffered a stroke while in hospital and was put on a life-support machine and we were told to say our goodbyes because she had such a massive stroke.

"But before the decision was made to turn off the machine, she came to and at that stage she was a vegetable.

"Over a period of a few months, she started making efforts to speak and so we knew that something was there in her brain, even though the MRI scan showed that her brain had been so badly damaged."

Leona, Sean and her mum Donna flew to Germany on December 13, and Leona had stem cells from her hip implanted into her body through a lumbar puncture.


"They harvested and picked out the best stem cells from Leona, and the stem cell implantation took one hour through lumbar puncture, and they held her under observation in the clinic for four hours."

Sean added: "It's now around eight weeks since the implantation and we've been told that it could take three to six months [for an improvement]."

Leona's son Ben is now two, and while she is still not able to hold him, the bond between them has grown much stronger as she recovers.

"We've noticed a marked improvement in her gait, she used to throw her left leg and arm as she was walking, but now she's walking normally. She's much more alert as well."

He added: "She was on the phone to my wife two or three weeks ago and is putting two or three words together to form a sentence, so something is happening."

Leona and her family hope to return to the Xcell treatment centre in Dusseldorf this summer for another round of the specialist treatment, which will cost up to €10,000.

"It's been worth every penny to this day. She had no hope, she was going nowhere, and despair and depression were setting in," said Sean.

"She keeps talking about Ben all of the time now and she hadn't that bond with him when she was recovering from the stroke. She has no strength in her side still though so she can't hold him."

Anyone who wishes to donate to a fund called Hope for Leona can do so at Bank of Ireland account number 62484995, sort code 900551.