One Special Needs Parent’s Journey Into Placental Stem Cell Therapy
Over the last decade, the placenta encapsulation community has made astounding progress in educating American families on the medicinal properties of the placenta for the postpartum period. Despite the progress that’s been made in our cultural understanding of how the placenta supports the postpartum period, the majority of placentas born today in America are not taken home by families and used for maternal consumption. They are used for regenerative medicine.
Over 90% of the placentas delivered in America are left behind by families and then sold by the hospitals to large corporations that make medicinal products from them or else they are donated to tissue banks and registries like Be the Match. These companies don’t take the placentas because the placentas are filled with iron, vitamins, or minerals, as these are things that can be found bottled at any corner pharmacy. What’s truly valuable in the placenta are the stem cells.
Thankfully, the placental encapsulation community is now connecting with the wider placental world which has been exploring the potential of placental stem cells as regenerative medicine for over two decades. We are now realizing that the most valuable, the rarest, and the most medicinally effective properties of the placenta are the stem cells and healing growth factors. The effects that stem cells and growth factors can have are difficult to exaggerate. We’ll go into detail about why they have such powerful medicinal capacity with the basics, how they function, and what they are capable of, but first I’d like to tell you about why this section on placenta stem cells was written.
It started the day a picture came in the mail of my favorite uncle, David. (This is Stephanie, by the way.) He sent a picture of himself halfway up a mountain in Costa Rica—but what was significant about this picture was what was not in it. My Uncle David had been suddenly paralyzed years before, but here he was half way up a mountain and decidedly not in a wheelchair. I’ll let him tell you the story:
David Houser states, “I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, a rare neurological disorder that is a part of the increasing number of conditions collectively known as auto-immune diseases. MRIs showed lesions on the myelin sheath of my spinal cord resulting in paralysis of the right leg, incontinence of the bladder, impaired peristalsis of the intestines, and the accompanying bloating of the stomach. In addition to these common symptoms, there was also a mysterious and painful tightness around my entire torso crossing the spine at T-8 and T-9. This pain increased with low- pressure weather systems and storms, which greatly exasperated my already severely debilitated mobility.
Over the course of a week, I went from a strong, 4,000-mile backpacking mountain-man, who chopped my own wood and ran my own farm, to being completely paralyzed from the waist down. I was in a wheelchair and on a catheter. Four years after this occurred, I decided I had to take a chance on stem cell therapy. It was a $20,000 risk for an emerging method of treatment, but I remembered a miraculous healing my son Jared had had using placental stem cells and wondered if I could benefit from it as well.
I decided I would try to improve my stem cell therapy outcomes through supplementing my body with human placenta consumption before harvesting my own stem cells to be injected into my spine. The anticipated outcome was that this therapy would repair the myelin sheath and enable nerve regeneration. I did not have my own placenta with an exact DNA match, but I was able to acquire a valuable donation of a placenta from a non-related source. I hoped that the placenta would increase the amount of stem cells in my body that could be harvested for injection.
When the doctors harvested my stem cells, they agreed to inform me of the harvested stem cell count. Two days later I was informed my stem cell count was almost exactly twice the normal amount!
Placenta consumption worked. I was now doubling my chances, and would be receiving, in effect, a $40,000 treatment for $20,000! It was amazing. The next day I was able to double my physical therapy routine. Every day I made significant improvements in strength. In two weeks, I was walking without crutches! To walk without crutches or pain for the first time in years was exhilarating and filled me with a sense of freedom and gratitude that would be hard to fully describe. A couple of weeks into physical therapy, a friend and I went to Mt. Arsenal, an active volcano in Costa Rica and spent the day in a hot spring river doing yoga. My physical therapists were astounded by my progress, and their enthusiasm inspired me to work as hard as I possibly could.”
Most of the progress David was able to make was because of growth factors; in his case, there was not enough quantity of stem cells with a match to make a lasting difference. With time, his progress diminished, but the experience of how the placenta affected him was very powerful. Today he is a passionate advocate for placental medicine. He said, “With what we know of the placenta’s healing properties, to throw out the placenta as if it were a waste-product is an act of great foolishness. I invite you to harvest this wonderful gift and discover for yourselves its powerful ability to bring health and healing.”
Because someone I was close to had this experience with stem cells, I was intrigued enough to research for myself to see if it could help my daughter with Down Syndrome. I’d like to give you a peak into my ‘special needs world’ because the placenta turns out to be highly affective for special needs kid and this is something I believe every placenta worker should know about. So let’s go back to the beginning on my journey with Jolie because I want to help you experience how and why the placenta changed her life and what that feels like for a special needs parent when that happens. Every special needs parent remembers that moment. That moment when you hear the diagnosis for the first time; you know what it means, but you don’t know what it will mean for you, for this family, for this child. Dreams of who you thought this child would be, and who you wanted to be to them start leaving you before you’re ready to let them go. I was only 24 when my daughter was born. The only thought I had in my mind for three days was “no one is ever going to marry my daughter.” I’m not proud of that thought, but it was a part of my journey with grief.
I started to study with tear-glazed eyes what I could expect now instead of the life I had imaged for Jolie. I learned that Down Syndrome is a degenerative genetic condition where the body has an extra chromosome that would cause my daughter to have over 80 different types of problems in her body; she would have a reduced (and capped) mental capacity, a higher risk to develop multiple aggressive cancers, and low muscle tone. The low muscle tone affects her whole body, putting her at risk for heart problems, poor motor development and ability, speech impediments, and breathing difficulty especially at night. The low muscle tone makes her at risk for sudden heart attacks, fatal accidents or drownings, and death by sudden suffocation at night from colds that turn to pneumonia when her weaker lungs cannot clear the fluid. People always come up to me when they see Jolie and say something like, “Oh, my neighbor’s best friend’s daughter had Down Syndrome,” and then tell some horrific story of how they died suddenly on a perfectly normal day. The life expectancy of someone with Down Syndrome in the year of my birth was only 25 years old, but has now has climbed to 50. But most parents with a Down Syndrome child will still have to bury their own child.
Jolie’s brain was only in the 9th percentile—the doctors said the Down Syndrome would be the least of her problems—that she would be largely non-responsive but not just because she had that extra chromosome in every cell of her body. Or at least—she did have an extra chromosome in every cell of her body until she orally consumed the placenta raw to intake the placental stem cells. And when that happened she got a potent dose of growth factors and stem cells that started reproducing themselves like little factories. And then all those little factories started pumping out fresh brain cells, new heart cells, and none of these cells have the extra chromosome common to Down Syndrome because these were her brother’s healthy cells. And these master stem cells will only continue to reproduce for the rest of her life. Which means that instead of watching my daughter follow the expected degenerative path of her condition that’s similar to Alzheimer’s and certain types of dementia, she will get healthier and stronger and more capable the longer these cells are working within her.
The timing of when Jolie’s placenta consumption was perfect; she had just had her last IEP done a week before the stem cells were given. But because she was transitioning out of Early Intervention she had another independent evaluation six weeks later that included a comprehensive assessment by a speech therapist, special education therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and various other physical assessments to test her cognition, hearing, etc. These professional, documented evaluations found what we, as her parents, personally experienced. Jolie had jumped 18 months developmentally in 6 weeks. The timeline of the evaluations didn’t even capture the full spectrum of her improvement because the growth spurt continued significantly past that 6-week point when she was evaluated.
Talking about the facts in this way doesn’t begin to capture what placental stem cells meant to me, as a mother, and to Jolie, and to all the special needs families whose lives are being changed by the placenta. When Jolie consumed the placenta, it felt like I got my daughter back. It felt like she ‘woke up.’ It felt like all the time I had spent mourning was wasted because here she was restored right in front of my eyes. Before the placental stem cells, when someone would ask me what my daughter was like, or what she wanted for a birthday or Christmas gift, there was very little I could tell them. She would follow basic commands in therapy, but she had no self-directed play, no initiation, nothing where I could say, “Jolie likes balls, or the color pink, or taking baths.” After she had stem cells, she started taking crayons away from her sister and wanting to try on shoes. I remember one day while she was going through her developmental leap, another mom who was getting to know our family casually asked me, “So tell me about Jolie?” I said, “Jolie likes shoes,” and burst into tears. I just sat and cried for a long time. It was the very first time I had ever been able to tell someone about who my daughter was, what she was interested in, and I was just so thankful that the stem cells were setting her free to express herself.
During this time, I also had many parents asking what had happened to her. The progress was so dramatic and so sudden. This happens with a lot of children. One little girl with Rett Syndrome had her long-term neurologist do a double take. The doctor actually left the room to get the patient chart because she could not believe she was looking at the same little girl. Penny was alert and interacting instead of slumped over from fatigue and low motor ability. The neurologist asked, “What did you do with this child!?” The mom was hesitant to tell her. She started by saying “Oh, you know, we’ve been doing a lot of horseback riding therapy. “No”—the doctor interrupted while excitedly testing her reflexes and motor skills, “this is not horseback riding therapy. All my patients do horseback riding therapy.” The mom told her, and now the neurologist is tracking her progress along with the parents.
Another little boy’s mother gave him his brother’s raw placenta through his G-tube. The impact of the placenta stem cells for this family were life-changing. Within days of starting the transfusion of the placenta through the G-tube they no longer have to do painful, time-consuming therapy every day just to help their son breath and are now freed up in their resources to enjoy one another. They are exploring what being a family feels like now that their child is not so medically fragile and in need of constant access to so much medical equipment.
Many of the parents who give their children the placenta for the stem cells and growth factors do have them professional evaluated like Jolie, or have a neurologist on-boarded for the process who tracks their progress and gives feedback. And while ‘successful clinical outcomes’ are important to have, these facts aren’t my favorite part of sharing placental stem cells with parents. What I love best is hearing the personal stories from parents like this one from a family in my special needs support group. (When this family saw what happened with Jolie, they tried it as well using a donated placenta!) In this family, their only daughter was severely affected by a maternal virus before birth and was non-mobile, non-verbal, and medically fragile. Within three months of her placenta stem cell intake she spoke in a whole sentence for the first time ever—she said: “I wuv Da” (I love Dad) while he was getting her out of the bath. The father had always been a good Dad. He did therapy and managed her feedings through the G-tube, and helped her get places with her wheelchair. But he had a hard time connecting with his daughter who was non-verbal and hardly ever made eye contact. Her mom told me, “After Layla started speaking, her Dad realized that she was really ‘in there.’ He cried for three weeks about how he regretted not connecting with her before like I was always trying to get him to, and about how thankful he was now that she is doing well.” I got a Christmas card from them this year with a personal note that read: “The three of us finally feel like a family.” And they looked like one.
Thanks for reading our stories!