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Iowa Athlete Has Controversial Stem Cell Therapy

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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By Liz Collin, WCCO-TV

LAKE MILLS, Iowa (WCCO) — A high school football player paralyzed on the field made a trip to India for controversial treatment.  He spent three months in New Delhi, India for human embryonic stem cell therapy.

Three years ago, Tyler was a junior playing in his first game of the season in Lake Mills, Iowa.

On the first play of the football game, Tyler made a tackle, but put his head down.  He was paralyzed from the chest down.

Since his transplant, Tyler has made amazing progress.

But, as Bart Winter, Tyler’s Stepfather points out, Tyler’s doctors told him the trip to India could kill him.

“He said do not do this just flat out just don’t do it. It is against my advice to do this period,” Winter said.

Tyler said he had to make the decision for himself.

“If people knew what kind of things spinal cord patients go through that stem cell could help I think they’d look at it a different way.  You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” Tyler said.

Dr. Geeta Shroff’s clinic in New Delhi, India, is the first in the world to develop an infinite number of stem cell lines from just one donated embryo. Over the years, she has treated more than 300 patients with no serious side effects.

For three months, Tyler was given two stem cell injections each day, followed with a rigorous physical therapy schedule.

Tyler took a camera along to India to show the progress he has made. His legs are braced in one video and he stands alone for five minutes. In another recording, he takes some small steps, the first since his accident.

His mother, Medara Winter, said the progress has been amazing.

“I don’t think anyone can imagine except a mom,” she said.

“Just to see people get better in the state we are it’s amazing,”  Tyler said.

Tyler came back to Lake Mills, Iowa in April.  He wasted no time getting back to work.

His physical therapist, Peggy Martin said she has noticed big changes.

“His left was definitely weaker. I’d say by 50% or more and now I’d say his left is almost stronger than his right,” Martin said.

Tyler has also been able to sleep in his room alone.  It’s something he hasn’t done since the accident.

“If there’s a chance to make it better and get better why not take it,” he said.

“This isn’t how it’s going to be for the rest of Tyler’s life because there is all kinds of possibilities of new hope,” Medara said.

Tyler’s stem cells will continue to grow into tissue.  He could see even more results in the next six months.  The treatment is not covered by insurance and can cost as much as $50,000.  Once Tyler’s progress plateaus, doctors want Tyler to go back and get more stem cell injections.

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