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London Mom Pins Hope on Surgery in Bulgaria

Date: 28.06.2010

By John Miner
The London Free Press

Before she completely loses her ability to walk, Pat O’Connor is taking a shot at a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Despite the fact the procedure isn’t covered by Ontario health insurance, the London single mom has booked an operation at a clinic in Sofia, Bulgaria, for July 29.

“Every day I feel like somebody has hit me over the head with a lead pipe. That’s how I feel. If I could have that sensation go away, the fatigue, I would stand in line for this,” O’Connor said.

Pioneered by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni, the procedure involves unblocking veins in the neck of multiple sclerosis patients using angioplasty to restore blood flow.

Reports of MS patients being able to get out of their wheelchairs and climb stairs have captured the attention of people with the disease around the world.

In Canada, health officials and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada have taken the position that Zamboni’s work is interesting, but needs to be validated by rigorous scientific research.

The society is calling on the Canadian government to put million into researching Zamboni’s procedure and announced earlier this month it has granted .4 million to support scientists studying it.

O’Connor, who relies on a walker and scooter for mobility, said she can’t wait for years of research to be completed.

“If I waited for the government to approve it, I would be in a nursing home,” she said. “I am pretty sure they will approve this in five years, but I don’t have that time.”

The operation in Bulgaria will cost O’Connor about ,500. In total, she expects her expenses will total more than ,000.

“If you think about an operation that will change your life, would you pay ,000 to have that corrected? I would shake a tin cup and that is what I am doing,” she said.

O’Connor, with family and friends, has organized a fundraising car wash Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Byron Auto at the corner of Commmissioners Rd. and Boler Rd.

“I want to be liberated,” she said. “I want to go back to work.”

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