Stem Cell

Stem-cell treatment arrives in Kamloops

Gail Walsh didn’t want to spend the rest of her days waiting.

The 72-year-old retired Peachland woman said she needed surgical procedures on both knees, hip, neck and back, but didn’t want to sit on the waiting list. Instead, she researched alternatives and learned about a doctor in Kelowna offering private stem-cell treatment.

The retired teacher’s aid committed $6,500 with the hopes of checking some itemsº off her list of procedures.

“I thought, I can just see the rest of my days, waiting for surgery after surgery, then recuperating in between,” Walsh told KTW. “It just seemed to me it was worth the money to try.”

Helping people on wait lists is among reasons why a longtime Kamloops neurosurgeon recently began offering stem-cell treatment, despite the fact the procedure is not approved by Health Canada.

“The expense [of stem-cell treatment], it’ll never be offered in the public system, so Canada will be behind the rest of the world,” Dr. Richard Brownlee told KTW. “Lots of people will do medical tourism, they’ll go to Mexico or the States or Germany or whatever to get treatment that’s not available here. Wait lists are the other thing. People wait for a year to get a MRI, so if they don’t have to wait, they can come in and get one in less than a week or two.”

The Welcome Back Centre, a private pain-management clinic on Columbia Street, began offering stem-cell treatment three months ago.

Stem cells are prevalent in humans and can be extracted to help treat degenerative, inflammatory or autoimmune conditions, Brownlee said.

Under the right conditions, stem cells can adapt into other cells. Someone with arthritis may have stem cells injected into a joint to create new cartilage, while athletes may treat soft tissue after a muscle tear, he said.

Brownlee noted the medicine is evolving, even being used to slow down symptoms of — but not cure — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease.)

“Stem cells are what do the repairing,” Brownlee said. “So, if you’re putting a big number of those locally…