Stroke patient seeks relief in US clinic

SANDRA CROSBIE
Last updated 12:00 03/07/2014
Stroke
MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ
Testing time: Grant and Trudy Lawton are travelling to the United States to try a controversial treatment for stroke patients, which they hope will help Trudy lead a more independent and pain-free life. Friends and family are organising fundraising to assist with costs.

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Grabbing the opportunity to undertake a controversial treatment for stroke victims is bringing hope to a Feilding woman.

Trudy Lawton is hopeful the treatment will return her independence and remove her constant pain.

In 2002, aged 36, she was struck down by a stroke. At the time Lawton was fit and training to join the police, like her husband Grant.

She was fortunate she collapsed in front of her doctor and was quickly flown to hospital, where a scan revealed a large brain bleed.

She was later diagnosed with Moyamoya disease, which constricts arteries in the brain. After being in an induced coma for three days she spent close to two months in both Wellington and Palmerston North hospitals. Lawton worked hard to recover. However, she was forbidden to drive, and had constant pain in her head for the next 2 years. There was also constant fatigue. In 2007, the couple found a neurosurgeon in Auckland, Andrew Laws, who specialised in Moyamoya disease. They discovered he was a former Palmerston North man.

"Andrew was up front," said Grant Lawton. "He told us this was a progressive disease and Trudy should not expect to live to old age.

"This was devastating news."

When her health deteriorated in 2009, Lawton had two operations.

These appeared successful and she was eventually able to attend the gym three to four times a week, but the fatigue and confusion continued. Then last year, Lawton suffered another stroke.

"Trudy's communication was limited and she had to learn how to talk again," her husband said.

It was while watching a recent 60 Minutes television programme that they found out about the controversial stroke treatment, using the drug Etanercept. The report indicated it provided instant improvement to patients' speech, co-ordination and brain function.

Grant Lawton quickly researched the drug and got in touch with the American-based Dr Edward Tobinick. The drug is used to treat chronic arthritis and Tobinick's research shows that when a person has a stroke there is a chemical in the brain that has similar properties to an inflammation.

"Etanercept works on clearing this inflammation," Grant Lawton said. "I have spoken to the clinic and they said Trudy is a good candidate for treatment."

One in five people do not respond to the treatment and there may be side-effects. The Florida-based clinic has recommended Lawton have two injections and require her to stay for a few weeks between the two.

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Each injection costs NZ$7000 and the pair, along with friends, are organising fundraising.

A fundraising dinner and auction is being organised by friend Christine King from Piccolos Cafe.

The dinner is being held at the Feilding Club on Kimbolton Rd on August 2.

A Givealittle page has also been set up for donations.

- Manawatu Standard

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