An unconventional liposuction treatment allowed a woman to keep her vision after experiencing a medical nightmare.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t walk,” optic neuritis patient Julia Matsumoto told CBS Local in Miami. “I couldn’t enjoy my life. I was 31 years old and I had a severe headache. [My world] would just get darker and darker.”
The patient’s ophthalmologist Dr. Larry Geisse explained that Matsumoto had optic neuritis.
“For some reason, her body is attacking itself…and causing inflammation and damaging the nerve,” Geisse told CBS Local.
The medical condition typically responds well to steroids like prednisone.
“That could control it,” Geisse commented. “There’s no question.”
Matsumoto began taking prednisone, which helped her regain her vision. However, her steroid dosage of 100 milligrams per day triggered drastic side effects.
“I gained over 100 pounds within three months,” Matsumoto told CBS Local.
The weight gain caused stretch marks on Matsumoto’s arms as well as organ and joint damage, side effects so severe Geisse began to weigh his patient’s options.
“Is it better sometimes in this case to let a person go blind or do you kill them with the steroids?” Geisse asked.
Matsumoto decided to stop taking prednisone and accept the fate of losing her vision.
“I told my daughter I would always remember her,” Matsumoto said. “The way she looked.”
However, Geisse refused to accept that option and instead continued to search for answers. He quickly learned that a Beverly Hills based cosmetic surgeon was researching stem cell therapy as an alternative to steroids.
“I don’t have anything else to lose,” Matsumoto admitted.
“As a cosmetic surgeon, I’ve been harvesting fat to throw it out because people want to get rid of it,” Dr. Mark Berman of the California Stem Cell Treatment Center told CBS Local in Miami. “Now I tell people who come to me for liposuction, ‘Don’t be so quick.’ Your fat is loaded with stem cells.”
Matsumoto’s first treatment in November 2011 consisted of liposuction to her belly and the separation of stem cells from her fat and blood. The stem cells were then infused back into her system intravenously.
“We saw her like three or four days after the procedure and I’m telling you it was just miraculous how much better her vision was,” Geisse explained. “We’ve successfully got her off the steroids completely and that in itself has been a miracle.”
“I am forever grateful,” Matsumoto commented to CBS Local. “It’s given me a new life.”
The cause of optic neuritis remains unclear, but Julia needs repeat treatments every two months to keep her vision.
Stem cell therapies are experimental, expensive and not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Since Matsumoto lost both her job and her health insurance, both doctors are treating her for free during her journey to recovery.
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