LEWISTON – Harold “Bud” Poxleitner, 67, and Robert Braucher, 40, are cousins who were paralyzed in separate accidents – Poxleitner in a 1968 logging accident, and Braucher in a 2003 automobile accident.
Now the two are preparing to fly to Cologne, Germany, for stem cell treatment that they hope will restore some of their ability to move, feel and otherwise take as many steps as possible away from their wheelchairs.
“I’m hoping to get rid of the pain in my leg,” said Poxleitner, of Cottonwood, who is paralyzed from the waist down. “My worst leg is just running me ragged trying to keep up with it.”
“There are stories about other people having it done and having good results,” said Braucher, of Forest, who suffers from paralysis in both his arms and legs. “So you only live once, why not give it a try?”
The two will travel with their daughters Nov. 21 to Cologne, where the procedure will be done at the XCell-Center, a private clinic for regenerative medicine. The procedure is not yet legal in the United States.
“What they do is they take the bone marrow out of the hip and separate the stem cells,” Poxleitner said. “Then they will put it back into my back as close as they can to the spinal cord where the injury happened.”
The XCell-Center, according to the clinic’s Web site, offers patients with degenerative diseases the opportunity to undergo an “innovative and promising” stem cell treatment. More than 1,600 patients, since January 2007, have benefited from the use of autologous adult stem cell treatment, according to the site.
The center also offers the following disclaimer: “We would like to point out from the start that there are still some questions concerning the function of stem cells that science has not yet been able to answer, and that despite advances that have been made recently there is no guarantee for the success of stem cell therapy.”
Braucher said he learned about the treatment from his 18-year-old daughter. Then he told Poxleitner. And the two eventually decided they’d go to Germany together with much hope, but no great expectations.
“It might help me, but it’s not instant,” Poxleitner said. “They said they can’t guarantee anything. It’s just a deal that’s worked on so many people.”
“It could help certain parts of your body,” Braucher said. “It’s not going to make you get up and walk. But you have other problems besides not being able to walk. Muscle spasms and all sorts of other stuff.”
Cost of the procedure in Germany, the two men said, is around $10,500. When travel costs are included, each expects to spend in excess of $14,000 for the trip.