Monday, February 13, 2012

Spinal cord injury patient gaining strength after stem cell therapy in Panama

Gaining Strength

CEDAR CITY, UTAH - Jarom Hlebasko, a Cedar City man who suffered a spinal cord injury more than 10 years ago while playing in the snow, has been working hard in physical therapy to gain strength after receiving stem cell treatments in Panama in October 2011.

Following his trip to Panama City, Hlebasko, who seeks to regain the use of his arms and legs, said he has seen noticeable improvement in his physical condition, which he attributed to physical therapy and the stem cell treatments that involved removing stem cells from his body and using them to treat his spinal cord.

One of the improvements he has noticed is that he is able to work out for longer periods of time. He said he is also experiencing sensation in parts of his body that were once numb, especially when he exerts muscles while working out.

He said he has been told that patients with spinal cord injuries generally need more than one round of stem cell treatment. He said he hopes to be able to go back to Panama for additional treatment in the future. Future treatments, he said, would not be as expensive or as lengthy as the first one, during which he remained in Panama for a month. He said medical professionals at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama City have already extracted stem cells from his hip that have not yet been used.

While Hlebasko has received assistance from community fundraising efforts, he said he does not want to ask the Iron County community for any more money to pay for his stem cell treatments. However, his foundation, which is called Hope for the Change, is preparing a fundraising event to help a resident of Cedar City or the surrounding area to receive needed medical treatment.

"We've already started the ball rolling with (selecting) another applicant," he said.

His wife, Leslie Hlebasko, said anyone who would like to apply to be the beneficiary of the fundraiser can go to the Hope for the Change Foundation's website,, to learn about the requirements for applying.

"It's for any kind of medical need that isn't covered by your insurance," she said.

She said an impartial committee will select this year's beneficiary.

Jarom Hlebasko said applicants who are not chosen to benefit from this year's fundraiser will have the opportunity to try again next year.

"We're hoping the community will realize that this is an annual event," Leslie Hlebasko said.

Aided by financial assistance that allowed him to receive stem cell treatments, Jarom Hlebasko said the quality of his life has noticeably improved. He said he feels stronger than he did before the treatments.

"It just takes time," he said.

Tyler Brinkerhoff, a physical therapist with Southern Utah Physical Therapy, said he worked with Jarom Hlebasko before and after the stem cell treatments.

Brinkerhoff said he has seen Jarom Hlebasko gain more muscle mass and balance.

"The thing that I think that has been good about Jarom is that he's worked really hard." Brinkerhoff said.

Dena Cloward, a friend of the family, said she has also noticed that Jarom Hlebasko has gained muscle.

"I've definitely seen positive changes in him, which is so exciting," she said.

Cloward is working with the Hlebaskos to organize this year's fundraiser.

Organizers have yet to announce the date and location of the fundraiser.


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