Leons Lifeline Fundraiser – Leon pictured above with his mother Val. Picture: Richard Lynch/ilovelimerick
Leon’s Lifeline – A Young Mans Only Chance
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Kate Devaney
Leon O’Connor, a 22-year-old Limerick animation student, is pleading to the public to help him raise €70,000 to receive Stem Cell treatment in Russia, as one last hope to return to his life before Multiple Sclerosis took it over.
Leon is an animation student at the Limerick School of Art and Design, who is very passionate about his craft. This was before MS changed every aspect of his life, leaving him now partially blind and struggling to walk.
Leon was diagnosed with MS in 2016, when he was just 18 years old and about to sit his Leaving Cert exams. The news shocked his family and turned their lives upside down. Now, three years later, his condition has worsened dramatically but there is still one last lifeline.
Leon said, “I was diagnosed three years ago. It is likely I’ve had MS since I was about ten-years-old and in the last year its deteriorated rapidly, even in the last few weeks it has gotten so much worse.”
Leon’s Lifeline Fundraiser – Please help send 22-year-old Limerick man Leon O’Connor who has multiple sclerosis to Russia for vital stem cell therapy. Picture: Richard Lynch/ilovelimerick.
Valerie O’Connor, Leon’s mother and full-time carer, said, “Fortunately, hope is on the horizon. The options available to Leon to improve his condition are extremely limited in Ireland. But there is hope in the form of HSCT stem cell therapy. This type of treatment is not available for MS sufferers in Ireland, so we have decided to travel to a clinic in Russia where Leon can be treated. We are hoping that this therapy will stop his MS from getting any worse, and it might even reverse the disease completely”.
HSCT stands for Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation. This type of stem cell treatment involves having Leon’s own healthy stem cells harvested and stored. Leon will then go into isolation and his white blood B cells (the key players in his immune system) will be treated with chemotherapy before his own healthy stem cells are re-introduced. While this is a severe therapy, the success rates are high and Leon’s family have gone to great lengths to find a clinic with a good reputation.
Leon has been offered a date in November 2019. HSCT only has a chance of working with people who are at a certain level of disability and Leon is almost at the cut-off point so he needs to get there as soon as possible.
Leon said, “At the moment I am the perfect candidate for the therapy, my age is one thing. But if it progresses any further I won’t be allowed do it, I won’t be able to do it. So there is no time.”
To cover the costs of the therapy, travel, and accommodation, as well as any help needed by way of special equipment and targeted physiotherapy, they need to raise €70,000. This will be done with your help by supporting the upcoming events Leon’s family and friends are organising, and by donating to the campaign to raise this vital money.
They have done everything they can to help Leon, through medications, diet and lifestyle changes, yet Leon’s disease has taken hold. Leon is dealing with MS as best as he can but his symptoms affect every moment of his life, severely curtailing his everyday activities, things he can do and what he can look forward to.
Leon suffers from loss of feeling in his legs which now makes walking very difficult. He has extreme fatigue so he is exhausted all the time. He is also losing sensation in his left hand, which makes it difficult to hold things. The vision in one of his eyes has greatly diminished which is potentially devastating as Leon is an artist. He wants more than anything to finish his degree and work in this industry. He lives for his art.
These are just some of the issues Leon is dealing with every day. He has been diagnosed with secondary progressive MS. This is when the disease takes hold and is harder to manage. Leon’s quality of life is very poor compared to other 22-year-old young people. He can’t go out at night, he can’t go anywhere alone anymore and needs constant help in his everyday tasks. This has also taken a huge toll on his family, both financially and emotionally.
Speaking about Stem Cell Treatment in Russia, Leon said, “Stem Cell Therapy isn’t a guarantee but it’s the best chance I have and it’s my only lifeline.”
If you would like to donate to this cause and help Leon receive the vital treatment he needs, please click here.
For more stories on Fundraising in Limerick, click here.
Multiple Sclerosis affects around 6,000 thousand Irish people at any one time, yet it is a disease that few of us know anything about. Symptoms can develop as early as childhood and can vary from mild to severe, in some cases leading to premature death.
MS is an auto-immune condition which means that the patient’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissue. In MS, this manifests as the nerve coatings on the brain being affected by lesions which crack the nerve sheath and then lead to disability over time. Little is known about why people get MS and little is available by way of a cure. What helps one person won’t help another.
Pictures: Richard Lynch/ilovelimerick.
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