Jacki Rabon Presentation at “A Toast”

Date: 06/20/2006

A Toast to Adult and Cord Blood Stem Cells: Helping Patients Now and in the Future
Senate Russell Office Building 385
Jacki Rabon
Hello my name is Jacki Rabon. I appreciate the opportunity to tell my story. I hope it makes a difference.

I am 19 years old and live in Waverly Illinois. You see me sitting in this wheelchair today. But if you had known me 3 years ago you would have seen a very physically active young girl. I played volleyball since the 6th grade. I played varsity since the 9th grade. I truly loved the game. I also loved to take walks, ride my bike, run, play on the trampoline with my nephew and chase my niece around the yard.

Then on August 12, 2003 my life took a very tragic turn. I was just over 16 years old. I was a passenger in a SUV and involved in a roll over accident. I was thrown from the vehicle and landed on my back. I fractured my spine at T12, which made me a paraplegic. I spent a little over a month in the hospital. There were times that I would just cry constantly, lay in the bed with my eyes shut to avoid talking to visitors and stare at the ceiling. I didn’t want to face the reality of the situation. I thought it would have been better if I had died. I didn’t want to live this altered life that I was facing. My future was dark, I would never play volleyball again, I would not be able to dance, ride a bike or walk down the aisle at my wedding. My nephew and niece would not remember me walking; they would only see me in a wheelchair! Rehabilitation was so difficult!! I had to re-learn how to dress, bathe, transfer from place to place, and survive in a wheelchair. After I mastered these once simple tasks I was sent home to continue with my life. I thank God each day that he continued to support and comfort me. He gave me the strength not to give up. I had a great support team in my family, my church family and my community.

Then in April of 2004 something happened that gave me new hope. My pastor called my home and wanted us to turn on a PBS special called, “The Miracle Cell”. It was a program on a procedure that was being done in Portugal by a Dr. Carlos Lima. There were two girls that told of having this done and now were walking with braces. My family and I became very excited about the prospect of doing this. We made it our mission on that day to do everything humanly possible to become a candidate for this surgery. After several visits to Michigan Rehabilitation Institute, many emails to them and Dr. Lima, numerous medical tests and much prayer I was accepted. My mom and I went to Portugal in October of 2005. I had this procedure done on October 29, 2005. It was a very unsettling trip with the language barrier, the seriousness of the surgery, the discomfort and pain that I endured. I had to fly for 8 hour to return home barely a week after this surgery. That was a very difficult trip.

After resting at home for a few weeks I went to Michigan to begin the aggressive rehab. I learned so much there. They are the best at what they do. I will never forget Dr. Hinderer and the wonderful therapists. It has been a little over 8 months since I had the procedure. I haven’t had a lot of return of feeling in my lower body yet. I do have a lot of sensation in my hips. My legs feel heavy at times and tingle as if they were asleep. I continue my rehab at home and at my church. I have leg braces and I can walk independently on parallel bars and with a walker. My goal for 2006 is to be able to walk with the braces and crutches. I know if I continue to work hard at the rehab and by the grace of God, I will succeed.

People have asked me what I think of Stem Cell research. Before the accident I never really gave it much thought. But today I have reflected on the issue often. I do not support Embryonic Stem Cell research. I think it is morally wrong the killing of another human being no matter what stage of life. But I do support Adult Stem Cell Research. Adult Stem Cell Research has already helped people with Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, sickle cell anemia and heart damage. Stem Cell Research is finding solutions, Adult Stem Cell Research not embryonic. Science and medicine does not have to kill in order to cure. The great advantage to Adult Stem Cell treatment it is just your body healing itself. There is no transplant rejection, since it is our own tissue. Sadly, I had to travel to a foreign country, leave the comforts of my home and country to get a medical procedure to help me. That is wrong!!! The United States prides their selves on the advancements in the medical field, and they should. But when it comes to Spinal Cord Injuries the United States has sadly fallen behind.

To sum this up, I want to end on a very personal note. What if I was your daughter, sister, grandchild, or someone that was near and dear to your heart? Could you honestly deny me this chance for recovery from a devastating injury? Would you be satisfied with me in this wheelchair all my life? Adult Stem Cell treatment and aggressive rehab enabled me to think beyond this wheelchair.

I can truly say that after learning about this procedure and the inspiring hope has caused my tears of sadness to change into tears of joy. I can walk!!!!