Jason Ludwick knew his heart was getting worse. He had lived with heart problems all of his life, having open heart surgery as an infant and a pacemaker at the age of 16. However, five years ago his condition took on a whole new reality in one shocking moment. Jason was sitting at his computer one day and his heart finally gave out.
“My face went numb,” he said. “I felt myself falling to the side.”
His life was saved thanks to the shock delivered by the defibrillator that was installed in his pacemaker. His doctors told him years before that he would need a heart transplant to survive. It was hard for his family to watch him continue to deteriorate while waiting for a transplant, knowing that his defibrillator couldn’t keep his heart running forever.
Luckily for Jason, waiting wasn’t the only option. His mother looked into alternative treatments and found an overseas company willing to try an adult stem cell treatment. Five years after being treated, Jason said his quality of life has only gotten better. Despite the apparent success, Jason said many people are still confused about adult stem cell treatments and only hear about embryonic stem cell research.
“I am frustrated with the fact that nobody talks about adult stem cells,” he said. “It’s so much more successful, less controversial and provocative.”
Jason, 38, was born with an atrial septal defect, and in his case he had to have surgery to repair the hole. He eventually needed a pacemaker because of the condition. As a child, Jason said it affected him, but he was still able to participate in some regular activities.
“I still played baseball, but I couldn’t play any contact sports,” he said.
He was suddenly diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 1994 and his heart progressively weakened and enlarged. Daily activities became harder for him to engage in. He was taking numerous trips to the hospital, suffering side effects from treatments and fatigue that culminated in his heart attack in 2005.
His concerned mother began looking for treatment options instead of watching Jason wait for a transplant. She found information about a company in Thailand that offered adult stem cell treatments for his condition. Jason met with a participating doctor in Pennsylvania, decided to make the trip overseas and was treated with his own adult stem cells. Five years later he said he is active again, scoring higher on exercise stress tests and feeling very different than he was before the treatment.
“If you looked at me and saw me, you’d never be able to tell,” he said.
He said his family was very thankful for the change, especially his wife Jennifer and their six children. Jason said he is very thankful for their emotional and financial support. His mother had to refinance her house for him to afford the trip overseas for treatment. Jason said he likes to tell his story because many people don’t hear enough about adult stem cell treatments. He said he can’t make sense of why potential treatments from embryonic stem cell research get a lot more attention while adult stem cells are treating some people now, as he and others patients like him have found.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “There’s so many of us out here, we just had a reunion.”
While his health has improved, Jason said he still has to deal with his condition. He still has his pacemaker and suffers from pulmonary hypertension. Jason isn’t letting that slow him down. His goal is to someday give testimony in front of Congress about his treatment. He hopes someday his story will inspire others to focus on the live-giving results of adult stem cell research rather than the potential of embryonic stem cell research that requires taking human life.
“You can bypass the whole debate,” he said. “Put the money into adult stem cells and actually treat more people.”
For more information about stem cell research, click here.