Friday, September 12, 2008

Story of Billy Tytaneck one of the first Crohn's patients in the country to undergo Stem Cell Procedure

Less than a year ago, 25-year-old Billy Tytaneck felt as if he'd been backed into a corner.
The severe case of Crohn's disease he'd been battling for half his life was becoming impossible to live with. In April 2007, Mr. Tytaneck, at six-foot-one, was underweight by 20 to 60 pounds, weighing only 130 pounds.

Eating had become a chore to avoid, as he was wracked by poor digestion and constant stomach cramps compounded by terrible bouts of diarrhea that would send him to the bathroom more than 20 times a day, even interrupting his sleep.

"Even if I did eat, it would go right through me and I almost wanted to not eat, because when I did eat, that's when I got the stomach cramps and had to go to the bathroom."
These flare-up periods, which could last a month and struck twice a year, had not responded to medication. At times, Mr. Tytaneck was taking five different drugs at once.

He had run through all the medications designed to treat it, but could no longer keep the bowel disorder in check.

Racked by nearly continual cramps and diarrhea, the St. Catharines native was left facing the daunting prospect of radical surgery to remove much of his bowel.

But Tytaneck was determined to find another solution.
He learned of a stem-cell transplant procedure that had helped some Crohn's patients. The problem was the transplants were all performed in the United States.

Tytaneck, a student at the University of Ottawa at the time, turned his attention to The Ottawa Hospital and its blood and marrow transplant program. He pitched the idea of a stem-cell transplant to hematologist Dr. Harold Atkins, who had performed the procedure previously.
Billy Tytaneck has created a website to spread the word about autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplants for patients with Crohn's on patients with other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.

Atkins agreed to help Tytaneck last winter, making him one of the first Crohn's patients in the country to be treated with the stem-cell procedure.

"I'm much, much better -- easily 100-per-cent improved from what I was last year," Tytaneck said from his home in Collingwood.

"Emotionally, it was difficult to deal with because nobody had been through it before, so I didn't know what to expect."

The doctor who performed Tytaneck's transplant said the procedure carries high risks and should only be considered for patients with the most severe cases of the disease.

"It's not as simple as a blood transfusion," Atkins said in a phone interview from Ottawa.

"There's more to it than that and there are quite a bit of side effects to it."
Part of the procedure involves wiping out the patient's immune system --believed to be at the root of Crohn's disease --with high doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

"That creates quite a few side-effects. The severity of the disease has to warrant using something that strong and that dangerous," Atkins said. Afterward, stem cells previously removed from the patient are infused back into the body to begin building a new immune system.

It takes about 12 months for the immune system to fully regenerate.
"After the first year or so ... the hope is these people won't need to be on other treatments," Atkins said. Five months after his transplant was completed, Tytaneck said his symptoms have diminished considerably.

He has also been able to whittle down the list of several daily medications he used to take to one.
"It's not perfect yet, but my symptoms are improving all the time," he said.
Atkins said more research is required to better understand the lasting impact of stem-cell transplants in the fight against Crohn's disease. Clinical studies are being carried out in the U. S. and Europe.

"The idea is that the Crohn's would essentially go away. The followup isn't long enough to say that would be for a year or two years or 10 years or forever," he said.

But for Tytaneck, the procedure has given him an enjoyment of life he hasn't experienced since he became ill about 12 years ago.

He recently began working as a mechanical engineer for a firm in Collingwood --a job that would have been difficult for him to do prior to the transplant.

"I can go out for a day and do anything without worrying about getting sick," he said.
"It's a huge difference. I enjoy everything so much more."

The procedure was carried out on an out patient basis over three months.
Tytaneck is hopeful raising awareness about the procedure will make transplants more common for other Crohn's patients.

"People don't even know it's an option. I want it to be an option for anyone who's facing surgery," he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. We are located in Ottawa and it's nice to see some different kinds of treatments taking place. My husband isn't at the point he would consider something like's nice to know if things get ever worse there are OPTIONS out there even if we don't live in the states!

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