74-year-old Shelton Strickland started getting worse and worse and eventually ending up in Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure earlier this year.
His family put him in hospice — non-curative care for patients whose life expectancy is not expected to exceed six months.
That’s when Strickland said he first read about an experimental procedure offered by an Israeli-Thai company, TheraVitae, in which doctors use adult stem cells taken from patients’ own blood, to treat and strengthen their failing hearts.
On May 1, after a series of tests to check his kidney function and the status of his heart, doctors in Thailand drew about a half-pint of blood from his arm and flew the blood sample to Israel for expansion of his stem cells, using a proprietary process.
A week later, the expanded stem cells were directly injected into his heart.
Now, roughly three months after his operation, Strickland appears to fall into the group of heart patients who feel “somewhat better and no worse” than before their surgery.
Although his heart is pumping far more efficiently than it did, he said — a doubling in his ejection fraction from less than 10 percent to between 20 percent and 25 percent.
He can change the oil in his car and put up storm shutters, but his stamina is a little low, even with the improvement in his ejection fraction.
But he no longer is in hospice care or on daily oxygen, and he has been told it will be “a while” — at least a year — before the stem cells start to repair his heart tissue.