Treatment last hope for MS mum

Dion and Jodi Russell with daughters Rachel and Abbey. Picture by Bruce Hunt. d420834
Dion and Jodi Russell with daughters Rachel and Abbey. Picture by Bruce Hunt. d420834

Tapping resident Jodi Russell will fly to Moscow for stem cell treatment in January.

Her family is halfway towards raising the $100,000 needed to pay for it.

Late last year, Ms Russell spent several months in hospital after a relapse, prompting daughter Abbey (14) to plead with dad ‘to fix’ their mum.

Dion Russell said he heard about 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.

‘Abbey 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 is a last effort to halt Ms Russell’s symptoms ” having tried every treatment option available in Australia.

She already 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 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 demand for the treatment. More than 67 Australians are lining up to get the treatment in Moscow between now and January.

MS Australia chief executive Debra Cerasa said it was important to understand 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.’

The Russell family has raised nearly $50,000 for the treatment so far. Visit to contribute.