Man Experiences Breathing “Miracle” in Treating COPD with Stem Cell Therapy
Originally from Ohio, Tim and Karen Heminger devoted much of their life to raising two sons and caring for horses in their adoptive hometown of Hawkinsville, Georgia — the “Harness Racing Capital of America.” But all that came to a halt in December 2013, when Tim was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Surgery to remove the lower lobe of Tim’s right lung in April 2014 proved successful, but still left him with severe COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and he soon entered a steady decline. After Tim came down with pneumonia twice, greatly limiting his ability to breathe and care for their horses, he and Karen knew something had to be done.
“It just got worse and worse and worse,” Tim recalls. “I was on oxygen all the time. It’s maybe 40 feet from the sunroom to the kitchen to the bathroom but I couldn’t walk that far without stopping to breathe. My lung function just wasn’t there.”
Says Karen, “I could see him deteriorating and told friends I didn’t know what I was going to do. Should I be planning a funeral? Should I sell our property and move into an apartment?”
In the meantime, Tim spent countless hours searching the internet looking for anything that could help and toyed with the idea of undergoing stem cell therapy to restore his lung function. He communicated with doctors in both California and the Central American nation of Panama before finally locating one right here in his home state of Georgia — Dr. Jamie Walraven of Ageless Wellness Center in Peachtree City.
After talking to Nurse Practitioner Linda Faulkner of Ageless Wellness several times, Tim and Linda realized it was “now or nothing.”
“This was our last shot,” Tim says.
“We think of COPD as being a progressive long-term illness. You don’t get better,” Walraven says. “In fact, you may get worse. The best that we can hope for is that we’re managing it so you don’t get worse or at the least, the decline is slowed down.”
Typically people who develop COPD have damaged their lungs through smoking over long periods of time. Even when people do quit smoking, it’s typically a progressive illness that may go from just a wheeze to needing an inhaler simply to get dressed or walk across a room, Walraven says.
COPD has traditionally been treated with a variety of medications and steroids, which can wreak havoc on the rest of the body, Walraven explains.
“So our goal with stem cells is to actually help repair or regenerate the damaged lung tissue,” Walraven explains.
Stem cells are baby cells that can turn into any tissue in the body, including cartilage and bone, as well as muscle and nerves. Ageless Wellness uses adipocyte-derived stem cells harvested from a patient’s own fat, obtained from a mini liposuction, which is then broken down with an enzyme and processed through a series of washes before being re-injected into the patient. The entire process, from start to finish, takes about three hours.
“With joints we inject stem cells directly into the joints but how do we get the stem cells into the lung tissue? If you think of the lungs as being spongy tissue, the only way to get stem cells to the lungs is through the bloodstream or through breathing it in,” Walraven says. Therefore to treat COPD, a typical application is concentrated in a bolus via an IV, which passes through the bloodstream and into the lungs pretty fast.
“We also convert a small percentage of those stem cells into a fine mist which is reintroduced via a nebulizer, and send patients home with PRP in the nebulizer to decrease inflammation,” she says.
The results for Tim were like night and day. He gradually got better and better, to the point where he needed the oxygen less and less.
“I guess it was about a month later that I didn’t need the oxygen at all,” Tim boasts. “Prior to the stem cell treatments I also had very bad psoriasis, which has since gone away by about 95 percent. And I had skin tags on my hands and wrists which have completely cleared up.”
An industrial accident 20 years ago left Tim with a torn rotator cuff that required 17 surgeries. “I know what pain feels like,” he says. But it hasn’t given him any trouble since the stem cell treatment.
“My knees used to wake me up at night from aching, but they don’t ache anymore,” he says. “I mow the grass. I take care of my horses. I do pretty much anything that I want to do, as long as I take my time.
Tim also spends six days a week at the gym now, alternating between pulmonary rehab and weight resistance. Before the stem cell therapy he couldn’t go three minutes with stopping. Now he’s able to spend 20 minutes working his upper body, 12 minutes on a stair stepper and eight minutes on a bike. He says his recovery is “a miracle.”
“Everybody I see at the gym says, ‘man you look so much better,” Tim boasts. “People can’t believe in the difference from what I was to what I am now. I can pretty much do anything I want to do. It’s astounding.”
Ageless Wellness Center is located at 1000 Commerce Drive, Suite 300, Peachtree City. For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Jamie Walraven or Nurse Practitioner Linda Faulkner, call 678-364-8414 or visit their website at agelesswellnessptc.com