Donna Fahler has been hoping for years for a muscular dystrophy cure — and she may finally get one.
That could mean relief from the achy pain the mother and grandmother has suffered for the past few decades.
Fahler’s diagnosis 33 years ago came as a shock, she said.
Though she was an athlete, she said she was always a slow runner and kind of clumsy. Fahler never imagined it was caused by an underlying genetic disease that would one day prevent her from walking.
After six months of tests and a muscle biopsy, she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when she was 24 years old.
Fahler’s symptoms remained minor until she gave birth to her daughter. Her doctors weren’t sure why, but pregnancy caused the new mother’s muscle strength to deteriorate faster than before.
In 2008, Fahler had to quit her job and switch to a motorized wheelchair for mobility.
She told the Enterprise that on a good day she can lift her arms to her head and transfer herself in and out of her recliner.
On a bad day, she is forced to rely on her husband and daughter for everything.
Fahler said she expected a cure to be found when she was first diagnosed but that faith quickly faded.
She struggled to find a research study that accepted anyone her age until she heard about the Ohio Stem Cell Treatment Center.
She said she’s anxious but nervous to be a part of a trial that only 300 people nationwide have participated in. Fahler said 80 percent of patients have shown improvement.
The treatment will involve having fat removed from her stomach with liposuction and extracting Fahler’s own stem cells and returning them to her body intravenously.
Fahler doesn’t have any guarantee that the therapy will work but is setting small goals.
“They told me if I notice anything it could take two to three months,” she said. “It could do nothing. It could show a little improvement or a lot of improvement or just keep me where I’m at now. I could live with that.”
Researchers will follow Fahler’s progress for five years.
She said she’s not sure what the future will hold since there have been so few participants. She will be the third Ohio person to try the treatment.
Fahler’s first treatment costs $8,000 and begins July 21.
A benefit dinner will be held next Sunday at the First United Methodist Church to cover medical costs.
Tickets for the benefit dinner are $25 per person and may be purchased by calling Deb Lansman at 440-647-7169 or at Geyer’s. Raffle tickets will be available at the dinner and items for auction will also be available.
An account for monetary donations has been set up at Fifth Third Bank under the name “Donna Fahler Benefit.”
Caitlyn Wasmundt may be reached at 440-647-3171 or on Twitter @LC_CaitW.