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Botox Helps Wheel Chair-Bound Stroke Patient Walk Again

June 20, 2009

The popular anti-wrinkle drug Botox is receiving accolades for more than just youthful appearance. A wheel chair bound Australian stroke patient is now able to walk again after botox treatments, the AFP reported.

After suffering a severe stroke 23 years ago, Russell McPhee, now 49, was told initially by medical experts that he would never leave the hospital.

But McPhee defied medical odds and walked again with the help of injections of the anti-ageing treatment Botox, commonly used among Hollywood celebrities. 

McPhee gets around his home without any assistance and can travel up to 330 feet with just a walking stick. 

“I thought I was going to die in a wheelchair,” McPhee told the press. 

Girlfriend Kerry Crossley and he confessed they were initially doubtful when educated about the treatment.

“(Kerry) chipped in and said ‘what, don’t you think he’s pretty enough?’” McPhee added.

Botox, or botulinum toxin, works by blocking nerve signals that command muscle contraction allowing wrinkles to flatten when used on the face.  However, more recent medical research has proven it can be helpful for patients left paralyzed due to brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, spinal problems or strokes. 

Valentina Maric, a physiotherapist at the St. John of God Hospital in Victoria state, explained that McPhee had not been able to walk because the stroke caused his muscles to remain in permanent spasm. 

“The muscles were turned on all the time because of the messages coming from his brain,” she said.

Because of the botox, the spasms released, Maric said, permitting McPhee for the first time in decades to stretch out the distressed leg muscles and build up other muscles needed for walking.

Ironically, McPhee’s muscles were still extraordinarily undamaged, making rapid progress possible after he began the treatment 18 months ago.  In most cases, muscles that have not functioned for long periods of time will wither away. 

“You usually see results in someone who has recently had a stroke but we’ve never had such a good response from someone so far down the track (decades after a stroke),” Maric said.

“The botox provided the kickstart needed to start the treatment.”

But the most contributing factor to McPhee’s noteworthy progress, doctor Nathan Johns emphasized, was his muscle strength and unwavering willpower. 

“Not every case is so successful,” he said. “Mr. McPhee had unusually good muscle power and great determination, despite the fact that he had been confined to a wheelchair for so long.”

McPhee remarked that he had been compelled to press on through the pain barrier for the promise of being mobile once again. 

“It’s not just a matter of getting your botox injection then going to bed and being able to walk in the morning, it takes a lot of hard work,” he said.

McPhee pays tribute to his girlfriend Kerry, a childhood sweetheart who returned to his life two-and-a-half years ago, for the inspiration to tackle the huge feat of rehabilitation and rise above his spiraling depression.  

“I was in a pretty bad way with depression,” said McPhee, who played football, cricket, basketball and tennis before his stroke.

“I felt like my life was over.”

McPhee is hopeful that in time he will no longer need the three-monthly botox shots in his legs and arms, now that he has Kerry back in his life and the assistance of the medical team at St. John of God.   

He said he was trying to make his non-spastic muscles strong enough to make up for the ones that contract, developing a long-term fix for his condition. 

“That’s the aim,” said McPhee, adding that he also intends to marry Kerry.




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