Keynsham mum's 'dream a reality' after receiving MS treatment in Mexico
A Keynsham mum-of-two is recovering from weeks of gruelling medical treatment after friends and family raised thousands of pounds to send her to a clinic in Mexico in a bid to stop her debilitating multiple sclerosis in its tracks.
Rebecca Matthews travelled to the city of Puebla in February to undergo haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), which she hopes will enable her to “reclaim her life” after suffering two years of relapses that have left her exhausted.
With two boys – six-year-old Frank and Albie, four – she said the fatigue and mobility problems caused by MS have prevented her being the “hands-on” mum she had been and she dreamed of being able to run around the garden with them and teach them to ride a bike.
However, Rebecca was devastated to be turned down for HSCT with the NHS because she didn’t meet its strict criteria for the treatment.
But friends and family swung into action to raise £48,000 as soon as they could to send her to Mexico to have the treatment, which is more effective the earlier a patient has it.
Rebecca’s father Alan and his wife Lynn organised a celebrity fancy dress party in September, which raised more than £4,000, while supporters tackled the Keynsham 10K in October and the Saltford Santa Dash in December to add to the fund.
Friends and family spent a Saturday packing bags at Waitrose in Keynsham in the run-up to Christmas, while donations also came from First Bus Canteen Committee, a non-uniform day held at Chandag Infant and Junior schools, fundraising evenings hosted by the Wagon and Horses pub in Peasedown St John and via an online fundraising appeal set up by friends.
By the start of this year, their efforts had raised an impressive £17,000, when a close family member stepped in to donate the rest, allowing Rebecca to set a date for the treatment.
She travelled to Mexico on February 2 with friend Kate Davison, who acted as her carer during the four-week programme. Rebecca underwent intensive chemotherapy to remove harmful immune cells before stem cells were removed from her chest. On day 17, the harvested stem cells were then returned to her body – a day the clinic staff and patients celebrate as a “stem cell birthday” as it is essentially the “birth” of a patient’s new immune system, Kate explained.
Rebecca then had to be kept in a sterile environment as her immune system “rebooted” itself before a final injection of the drug rituximab.
She is now back home in Keynsham with the boys and husband Rich, with recovery expected to take up to a year.
Kate said: “This isn’t where the story ends. In the first three to six months extra precautions need to be taken to avoid being exposed to anything that may make Rebecca ill, even a simple cold could be devastating for her.
“To repeat a recent post Rebecca put on the Facebook HSCT Plea page, she is overwhelmed with how everyone has rallied around her this past year or so. She is incredibly grateful, and always will be, that everyone involved was able to make her dream a reality and counts her blessing daily.
“Rebecca also promises to make the most of this next year to reach her personal goals now that she has been given the opportunity to.”
Rebecca is keeping supporters updated on her progress at www.facebook.com/Rebeccas-HSCT-Plea-447344389102036