Mum goes to Russia with love

Dion and Jodi Russell with children their Rachel and Abbey. They have started a fundraising campaign to help Ms Russell seek treatment in Moscow. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d420834
Dion and Jodi Russell with children their Rachel and Abbey. They have started a fundraising campaign to help Ms Russell seek treatment in Moscow. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d420834

Ellenbrook Christian College learning support teacher Jodi Russell will fly to Moscow for stem cell treatment in January, and her family is raising $100,000 to pay for it.

Late last year, Ms Russell spent several months in hospital after a relapse, prompting her daughter Abbey to plead with their dad to fix their mum.

Dion Russell said he heard of the Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (HSCT) treatment in March and after some research he saw it as the best way to fix Jodi and fulfil his promise to his daughters.

‘Abby broke down after school one day because her mum was still in hospital,’ he said.

‘She looked at me like a completely different kid ” as if she hated me ” and said ‘you told me this wouldn’t happen, so you fix her’, so that’s how the fund became named Fix Jo in Moscow.’

The surgery in Moscow is a last ditch effort to halt Ms Russell’s symptoms after having tried every treatment option available in Australia.

She suffers severe pain, fatigue, loss of balance, eye discomfort, hearing and vision loss, muscle spasms, depression and memory loss.

Ms Russell said the treatment would last six weeks and came with its own risks.

‘It is a risky treatment; the mortality rate is one in 250 in Moscow,’ she said.

‘It’s a harsh treatment with little pain relief ” it’s also going to be emotionally draining to be away from my family for that long.’

‘However, the mortality risk of living with MS is also high.’

Only six clinical trials of autologous HSCT are available in Australia each year, despite the strong demand for the treatment.

More than 67 Australians are lining up to get the treatment in Moscow alone between now and January.

MS Australia chief executive Debra Cerasa said it was important to understand that autologous HSCT was not for everybody.

‘It is a high-risk treatment that is still deemed unproven by the international research community. It is currently only considered by some doctors and hospitals on a case-by-case basis for those who have an early, aggressive form of relapsing MS that is resistant to all other treatments,’ she said.

‘Internationally, there are hundreds of people with MS who have undergone this type of procedure and while it is true that several have seen immediate benefit, it is also true that there are people who have undergone the treatment and received no benefit at all and continue to deteriorate.

The Russell family have raised nearly $50,000 for the treatment so far. Visit www.gofundme.com/7jygyg# to contribute.