‘Blazin’ a trail’ Dad: Son develops feeling, increased motion in his legs after stem cell therapy
Four-year-old Rikky Foresman is having a lot of firsts.
Last week, Rikky, his parents and three older siblings traveled to a women and children’s hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, for stem cell therapy to treat his spina bifida myelomeningocele.
“This hospital has this ‘beacon factor,’ ” said Rikky’s father, Rik Foresman, of Old Lycoming Township, as he described the process to a room full of friends and family at the DuBoistown VFW Sunday at a homecoming for the youngster.
Rikky Foresman, 4, of Old Lycoming Township, recently underwent stem cell therapy for spina bifida myelomeningocele and almost immediately displayed improvements to his feet and legs.
At the hospital, Foresman said, a doctor injects the beacon factor into the cells that need repaired. The beacon factor acts as a red flag, making the cells “yell for help.”
Doctors then inject stem cells from the umbilical cords and placenta of healthy babies, which quickly target the cells yelling for help and begin treating them, Foresman said.
The entire procedure takes 30 to 45 minutes. The Tijuana facility is the only hospital with the capability to do the procedure, Foresman said.
Rikky suffers from spina bifida myelomeningocele. The condition has caused him to have no control over his bladder or bowels and he has no feeling from the knees down.
When doctors asked his parents which areas the stem cells should focus on, they listed, in order, his bladder, then his bowel, his hip and then his legs.
“Most families have to wait 30 to 60 days (after therapy) to see any progress in their child,” Foresman said. “We waited 30 minutes.”
Rikky was laying in the hospital bed after the procedure, moving his legs up and down on the sheets. His father asked him why he was doing that. “Do you feel those?”
Rikky’s parents used their cellphones to record Rikky’s first moments of being able to feel them touching his feet.
The boy’s parents broke down when they realized their son could feel his toes.
“We cried,” Foresman said.
“I was amazed,” said Rikky’s mother, Lizz. “And, he keeps doing things to amaze me.”
The day after the stem cell therapy, Rikky and his family visited Seaworld in San Diego, not far from the hotel they were staying in, with tickets donated from a medical compassion program. According to his parents, Rikky was thrilled when he met Elmo and Ernie at the park.
At some point during the day, Rikky looked up at his father and asked him to feel his legs.
“They’re cold,” Foresman said.
“Yeah,” Rikky said.
“You never felt that before?” his dad asked.
“Nooooo,” Rikky said.
The family also gave Rikky a chance to feel the ocean waves on his feet during a quick trip to the beach.
“Tuesday was the first day I’ve seen Rikky (since the procedure),” said Denise Lorson, Rikky’s physical therapist at the Children’s Development Center. “I noticed his legs were not as contracted and he was straighter at the knees. He has increased sensation in the legs and feet and he could tell which foot I was touching.”
Lorson also said Rikky has more voluntary motion in his legs.
“Before, when Rikky would stand in his walker, he would stand with both of his feet together,” she said. “His muscles were so tight, his feet would be on top of each other.”
On Tuesday, Rikky was able to lift his feet while standing so that they weren’t crossed.
“I truly was very very impressed,” Lorson said. “The fact that he is able to have feeling will help him to not get infections, to know when something is hurt or know when he has a scratch before it could get infected.”
“For those of you looking into stem cell therapy, it’s going to be the little things that make you cry, every day,” Foresman said to his friends and family Sunday. “It’s not the big things; it’s the little things every day that will make you understand why it’s worth doing what it’s doing.
“We are super, super, super lucky and we are feeling really blessed,” he added. “That’s why we decided to have this party.”
The party was planned on the spur of the moment through Internet communication as the family traveled home Saturday.
“Just watch. In a couple of months, you may see him walking, you never know,” Lizz said.
Until then, Rikky will continue to have physical therapy twice a week, once at the Children’s Development Center, and the other with the local intermediate unit.
Doctors say Rikky could have improvements up to six months after last week’s treatment.
The Foresmans have contacted local attorneys to begin the process of starting their own foundation, “Blazin’ for Rikky,” which potentially could help other children with neurological issues receive medical aid on a national level.