Val Hoenecke said she was virtually bedridden with MS earlier this year, but now she feels great after having an operation to open her neck veins. (CBC)
A Rosetown, Sask., woman says she feels "150 per cent better" after receiving a much publicized, but controversial, treatment for her multiple sclerosis.
"I'm a different person today than I was four weeks ago," said Val Hoenecke, a math teacher from the town southwest of Saskatoon who went to Poland last month for an operation to have veins in her neck unblocked.
"I have nothing but energy, when all I could do [before] was stay in bed."
Hoenecke was one of about 20 people who met in Regina Tuesday night to talk about a treatment pioneered by Italian surgeon Paolo Zamboni for a condition he calls chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency or CCSVI.
As she flitted around from table to table talking to people at the event, Hoenecke showed no outward sign she has MS, a disease of the nervous system that can cause severe physical impairment and affects some 3,000 people in Saskatchewan.
For years, many scientists have described MS as an autoimmune disease, with drug therapy the standard treatment.
However, Zamboni believes MS is caused by blocked veins in the neck and has pioneered a novel treatment where angioplasty is used to open up the veins to help blood flow more easily.
MS patients around Canada have been clamouring for the treatment, but in most cases, neither the ultrasound used to diagnose the condition or the procedure itself are covered by provincial health insurance.
Some doctors say Zamboni's theories haven't been properly tested, and they're worried MS patients are moving too fast to get the operation.
People like Hoenecke have been traveling out of country and spending their savings to get the operation, which can cost $10,000 or more.
Hoenecke said she has no regrets after receiving her treatment on April 28.
"I have no pain now," she said. "I feel 150 per cent, and I can't even give you proper words to tell you how I feel."
Lori Lumax, who has MS, writes about the procedure online and planned the event for patients Tuesday night, said it's been a long time since people have had this much hope.
"Since I've started this — we'll call it this chase — I've discovered that the people are very smart, very educated and very active," she said, "considering that many of them can hardly do the things they normally would do."
Lumax said she wants to continue pushing the message and rallying support for the procedure, so people searching for information know they're not alone.