Carmel Turner is enjoying her own double miracle – not only have her crippling MS symptoms totally disappeared since having roundbreaking new treatment, she can now finally enjoy being a mum.
‘Nobody will say I’m cured but I am in total remission,’ the 37-year-old tells New Idea. ‘Last year I was on enough medication to fill a plastic tote bag – now I don’t even take Panadol.’
Weeks after giving birth to her first child, daughter Gracie, Carmel’s health deteriorated. The exhausted mum was collapsing and shaking so much she couldn’t lift her baby. Doctors initially diagnosed her with postnatal depression.
Stabbing pains had Carmel crying herself to sleep at night and 10 months after she gave birth her symptoms were so severe she couldn’t stand heat, wearing a cooling vest packed with ice 24 hours a day.
‘I was shocked when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in February 2009,’ recalls Carmel. Less than a year later, she was using a wheelchair, totally dependent on husband Scott, 37.
‘Knowing I was never going to be the mum or wife I wanted to be, I told Scott I love him so much he’d be better off divorcing me. Luckily he was stubborn and wouldn’t listen,’ she says in tears.
However, two years of hell later, Carmel is not heading to a nursing home, but the gym, thanks to a controversial treatment pioneered by Australian specialists.
‘We saw a TV show about a young MS sufferer called Ben Lay who had undergone a bone marrow stem cell transplant and was walking again,’ she says.
Tracking down neurologist Dr Colin Andrews, Carmel discovered that the treatment, first performed in Perth two years earlier by neurologist William Carroll, was controversial.
‘There were risks but the death rate had fallen from 10 per cent to one per cent. This was
my only hope,’ she says. In September 2010, Carmel began a course of chemotherapy aimed at rebooting her immune system, after having six million healthy cells from her bone marrow harvested and frozen. In November, those healthy cells were transplanted and instantly began to generate.‘The pain disappeared immediately,’ Carmel says.
Dr Andrews says it’s too early to call the treatment a cure, but research shows that 70 per cent of patients show no evidence of the disease over 100 months.
‘I’m on my feet again, getting stronger,’ Carmel says. ‘And knowing I will be here to walk Gracie to school and watch her grow up means everything.’
By Megan Norris
Photo: Nigel Wright