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Thursday, April 21, 2011 6:37 PM | Ken Torbert Volg link
Family fundraising for out-of-country surgery

Apr 21, 2011 - 04:30 AM

Karen Longwell

COBOURG -- A former Cobourg resident hopes a surgery known as the 'liberation procedure' will relieve some of the symptoms she has battled with multiple sclerosis.

Laura Scott grew up in Cobourg but now lives with her husband and three children in Bowmanville. Ms. Scott and her family, including her mother, Cobourg resident Katherine McMurdo, are working to raise enough money for the procedure at a clinic in Costa Mesa, California on July 6.

The liberation procedure is a venous balloon angioplasty, similar to a procedure that opens clogged arteries used to treat coronary artery disease. The procedure as a treatment for MS, but is not covered under OHIP or available in Canada, said Ms. Scott. Representatives from Health Canada declined an interview, stating the ongoing federal election campaign precludes comment to the media.

A representative from the MS Society of Canada, however, could explain the current status in Canada. The surgery, while tolerated in arteries, needs to be proven safe and effective in veins, said Stewart Wong, a spokesperson for the MS Society of Canada. Balloon venous angioplasty is used in some kidney dialysis patients but in these cases the benefit has been proven to outweigh the potential risk, according to the MS Society.

The liberation treatment was discovered by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni and was first reported in the Canadian media in November of 2009, which is when Ms. Scott said she first heard about it. Dr. Zamboni's research found more than 90 per cent of people he tested with MS had blocked veins. He found using a procedure similar to angioplasty unclogs veins and gets blood flowing normally. After the procedure, many people reported their MS symptoms were relieved.

Research is ongoing in Canada, but Ms. Scott feels like she doesn't have time to wait. She was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in 2001 and now suffers from vision problems, fatigue, balance and mobility issues.

"Every month she puts (the procedure) off, she is at risk of getting more symptoms," said Ms. McMurdo.

Ms. Scott researched the procedure for a year and was able to get an ultrasound test at a clinic in Barrie last December. The testing determined Ms. Scott has Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI), which is the condition Dr. Zamboni has described -- a narrowing or blocking of the main veins in the neck, said Ms. Scott. The narrowing is believed to be the cause of some of the MS-related symptoms.

The procedure is not a cure, said Ms. Scott, but she hopes it will relieve some of her symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.

"I feel like I have to try, otherwise I will never know," said Ms. Scott, adding the procedure has worked for thousands of people.

Ms. McMurdo feels it is ridiculous people can pay for plastic surgery procedures in Canada but not this procedure for MS.

Mr. Wong said the MS society understands the urgent need for answers and has partnered with the U.S. National MS Society to provide $2.4 million in funding for seven research projects focusing on CCSVI and its relationship to MS. The next step would be clinical trials, said Mr. Wong.

Treatment in Canada needs to be found safe and effective because the nation has a publicly funded health care system, said Mr. Wong.

"We understand people need to make their own decisions," said Mr. Wong, adding that is why the MS society provides information about CCSVI on its website.

The McMurdo family has been a top supporter of the local MS society walk but now needs help from the public.

"We really need the funds," said Ms. McMurdo, who added her family has supported several community organizations such as Rotary and Ducks Unlimited.

The goal is to raise $15,000, said Ms. Scott. Any excess funds raised will go to another person who needs the treatment or to charity, she added.

Two events are planned in Bowmanville in May and June with more coming to Cobourg.

For more information on how to help contact Katherine McMurdo at 905-372-5821 or visit the website at