A South Tyneside dad with multiple sclerosis is hoping to raise £40,000 to undergo a pioneering operation in Russia which could change his life.
Paul George, 40, was diagnosed with relapse and remitting MS 10 years ago, and has watched his life change as symptoms progressed.
He is now trying to raise the cash for stem cell treatment in either Russia or Poland.
The once-active construction worker was just 30 when he noticed his sight had become blurred while he was driving to work and was rushed to hospital, where he was eventually told by doctors that he had MS.
Forced to give up the work he loved, Paul, from Wilton Gardens, Boldon, has spent the last decade battling the condition, but now he hopes pioneering stem cell surgery may slow, if not stop, the progression of his condition.
He said: “I fell ill in 2006, but wasn’t diagnosed until late 2007 and it completely changed my life.”
“I had an operation on my spine as I put my back out though work. I went back to work three months afterwards and it was when I was driving on the motorway to Leicester to start a job I realised I couldn’t read.
“I was looking at number plates and couldn’t read them, so I pulled over, sat in the car park.
“I shut one eye and it was OK, so I drove to work with one eye shut and then went to an optician’s.
“They immediately sent me to the Leicester Royal Infirmary where they wanted to admit me on the spot, but as I’m not from the area, I asked to go to the eye infirmary at Sunderland.
“But it was 18 months before I got a concrete diagnosis.
“Over the years, the MS has progressed. For a while it was like nothing was wrong with me, but then my balance started to go, my swallow is delayed and, over the last year, it’s like I have slowly fallen off a cliff.
“I had a good job, but that instantly stopped when I was diagnosed. I couldn’t go back, as no one would sign me off as fit to work.
“I drove taxis until I had a relapse, and now it has really started to bite over the last 18 months.
“My mobility has fallen off, I have poor balance and have to walk with sticks.”
But Paul was given hope when he saw a documentary set in Sheffield Hospital where MS patients were treated using stem cells.
After looking into the treatment, Paul discovered he may be able to undergo an operation called Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT).
The treatment offers the possibility of slowing, if not stopping, the progression of his MS, but comes at a cost of over £40,0000 - meaning that Paul may have to see if clinics in Russia or Poland will accept him for treatment.
He said: “I heard about the treatment and wondered if should I go for it, as I didn’t know how I would raise the money,
“But I look at it from the point of view that if the same number of people who go to the match on a Saturday put in £1 each, then I’m covered.
“There are clinics in places such as Russia and Poland which offer the treatment, so I have been looking into the one in Moscow.
“If I could get it in the UK then I would, but I am also willing to go abroad.
“At the moment some days are better than others, but on bad days I literally can’t stand up and am unable to see straight.
“I am living with my parents at the moment, who have to look after me, and I am taking Dimethyl Fumarate, a drug which costs £1,400 a month to manage my condition, but it is horrendous.
“If I can pull this off and have the treatment it would change my life completely.
“To see some of what I have lost come back, and to be productive again, that would be amazing.”
Fundraising events are planned to help raise the cash and fundraising page has also been set up for people to donate.
So far the page had raised £830.
If you would like to contribute, please visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Paul-Frederick-George