Brisbane woman goes to India to beat treatment ban.
A BRISBANE woman who was paralysed in a car accident is walking again after receiving controversial stem-cell treatment in India.
Australian doctors told mother-of-three Sonya Smith 18 months ago that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Her spine was broken after she was crushed by her car when the handbrake failed and it rolled down a hill. But after eight weeks of embryonic stem-cell injections, Mrs Smith, 45, is now able to stand with the aid of callipers and has regained bowel and bladder control.
She says she has recovered "deep sensation" in her thighs and feet and has been able to swing her legs.
"When I first moved my toes, I was blown away," she said. "The doctors in Australia told me I would never walk again, but now I actually think I will be able to — without callipers some day."
Mrs Smith heard about the treatment from her sister, who lives in India, where medical guidelines are less stringent.
Phil Smith, 44, said yesterday that his wife's recovery had been "amazing". Mr Smith, an editor with Channel 7 in Brisbane, spoke from the family home in Bardon where the couple live with their daughters, Kirsty, 10, Holly, 8, and Carly, 7. He said his wife would be coming home next month for Holly's birthday.
"I've been speaking to her every day and she gets better all the time," he said. "It's been hard for her having the treatment in India and we hope one day it is available here. Of course there are concerns about stem cells, but Sonya wouldn't have had a chance."
Mrs Smith is one of more than 300 patients who have been treated in New Delhi by controversial stem-cell pioneer Dr Geeta Shroff.
The treatment, forbidden in Australia, involves collecting stem cells from embryos and injecting them into injured or diseased patients.
When taken from embryos, the cells are undeveloped and seem better able to replace damaged tissue.
Critics [Lunatics] have described the treatment as irresponsible and unethical, but Dr Shroff shrugged off the skepticism.
"These are people who are desperate and I have given them hope. What is wrong with that?" she said.
Dr Shroff claims to have an "inexhaustible" bank of stem cells from a single embryo, which she uses to treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease. She has never submitted her work for international scrutiny. Australian legislation was passed last year allowing scientists to clone human embryos to extract stem cells, but only for research. This month, state MPs will vote on whether to allow the practice in Queensland.
Mrs Smith, a teacher aide at Petrie Terrace State School, urged governments to do more to make the treatment available in Australia.