My Dad, Joe, has a rare condition called CIDP. CIDP stands for Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. This is an auto-immune disease, which means his very own immune system is attacking his body, and in particular, eating away the outer lining of his nerves.
This condition causes my father a lot of pain, fatigue, muscle aches, burning and shooting pain throughout his body, numbness in his hands and feet, loss of strength and more.
My father is only 51 years old. He worked in a paper mill since the age of 17, and supported my Mom, my two sisters and I by working very hard shift work, and taking as many overtime shifts as he possibly could. In around 1999-2000, my Dad began classes at a local college, towards a degree in Mental Health and Human Services. On top of working overtime shifts in the paper mill, he attended classes, and maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout his college years. He now has his Master's Degree, and works as a Substance Abuse Counselor for Manna Ministries.
About 5 years ago, my Dad started having numbness in his feet. Having worked in a paper mill, which entailed standing on a concrete floor for hours at a time, he didn't really think much of it. He let this go on for a while before finally seeing a Dr. One day my Dad was having severe back pain, so my Mom forced him to go to the ER to be looked at. The ER referred him to a neurologist. After many, many tests, it was found that my Dad had CIDP.
My Dad was put through every treatment there is for CIDP. He tried IVIG, which is intravenously administered antibody extracted from plasma of 1,000+ donors, immunosuppression, which reduces activation of the immune system, steroids, and plasma exchange. None of these treatments really helped my Dad, and actually made him feel much worse.
For years, while he was working in the mill, my Dad got little to no sleep for days on end because he was working so hard. In his free time, he would take my family camping, go hiking and biking for miles and miles at a time, climb mountains, maintain a huge vegetable garden and more. He was always an over-achiever, and still is to this day. He works a 40+ hour week every week counseling people, even though it takes a toll on his body. He is such a strong man, and a true inspiration. He forgets about his pain, so that he can help others with theirs. This is how my Dad has always been. He is the most loving, giving man I know.
Now, because of CIDP, my Dad can barely walk. He uses a walking stick, and stumbles and even falls down quite often. People who don't know my Dad, and his condition, often think he is drunk because he cannot walk straight, and without stumbling.
The last time my parents went out to eat at a restaurant, my Dad lost his balance and fell into another man. He was mortified, and vowed that his restaurant days were over, because he has such a hard time walking through their narrow paths, and he also has a hard time feeding himself without his hands constantly shaking. Some days his hands don't work right, and he doesn't even have enough strength to turn the key to start his car. This is very humiliating for him. He has always been a very proud man, and now he has to rely on other people to help him do simple tasks, like starting a vehicle.
Earlier this year, my Dad contacted staff at Northwestern University regarding their Stem Cell Transplant Clinical Trial Study for CIDP. About 40 people have now been through this trial study, and most are showing drastic signs of improvement, and having been cured of CIDP.
For this Stem Cell Treatment, my parents will fly to Chicago on September 1, 2012. We live in Maine, so it is a bit of a trek, and the plane tickets are quite expensive, even with the medical discount they get.
They will have to stay in a hotel (which they have to pay for out of their own pocket) for an entire month, while my Dad receives outpatient treatment at Northwestern University. He will undergo many tests, and receive medications to stimulate stem cell growth. He will have his stem cells harvested. He will also receive a shot of chemo to see how his body will react to it, and then he and my Mom will fly back home to Maine for 3 weeks for a resting period.
He and my Mom will then fly back to Chicago at the end of October, and my Dad will be admitted to the hospital for another month. During this month, my Dad will go through chemotherapy to completely destroy his immune system. He will have no immune system left at all. Then, they will infuse the stem cells they harvested, to build him a brand new immune system. It will take TWO years for his immune system to be entirely back to normal.
During their time in Chicago, my parents will not be able to work. They are both currently working full time. My Mom works very hard as a CNA for a nursing home. This procedure is going to cost my parents at least $50,000 out of pocket. They will have flight, hotel and food expenses as well. This is really going to put a hardship on them.
This procedure has been proven to work in other patients. There are other patients who are now walking and running, are pain free and not on any medications at all. I want this more than anything for my Dad. He has worked so hard all of his life, and he is still very young, and has many years ahead of him. I want him to be able to enjoy those years, instead of watching his body grow weaker and weaker.
Here is an amazing video done by a recent stem cell transplant recipient, that explains CIDP and the stem cell treatment process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18-HW1A_18g
Any donations at all would mean a great deal to my family. My Mom, my sisters and I want my Dad back more than anything. He has been going through hell for 5 years now, and he doesn't deserve this at all. The treatment he will be going through is going to be absolutely awful. He is going to feel very sick for a while. I don't want him and my Mom to have to worry about their finances during this time. My Dad deserves to live a normal, healthy, pain free life. Once this treatment is all done with, his goal is to open up his own counseling office to help others in need. Please consider helping my Dad out. He is a truly deserving man.
Thank you so very much for your time and consideration. We truly appreciate it.