Alberta man with MS goes to Mexico for stem cell transplant


An Edmonton man says looking for medical therapy for a number of sclerosis outdoors of Canada has price him follow-up care at house.

Daniel Relvas knew he was appearing in opposition to his neurologist’s recommendation when he utilized to Clinica Ruiz in Puebla, Mexico, however felt he was working out of treasured time.

The clinic had made him hopeful he’d have the opportunity to run round with his two children for longer. Its stem cell therapy had a better success fee than another possibility he was eligible for at house, even when it was nonetheless present process trials to be used extra broadly.

“[The neurologist] would not give me a transparent reply. She simply mentioned, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it,'” he recalled.

But as far as Relvas may inform, he was the best candidate: younger, not on medicine but, and early into his prognosis with a decrease incapacity rating.

The clinic accepted him rapidly. It appeared now or by no means.

He got here again after a month in Mexico skinnier, bald and worn out. However, he rapidly felt higher. Except he did not know if he was truly higher as a result of his neurologist quickly knowledgeable him he would want to search therapy on the MS Centre.

In the months for the reason that Mexican therapy, Relvas hasn’t been ready to discover one other neurologist to e-book an MRI or analyze check outcomes.

“People are continually asking, like, did this work? Is he OK?,” his spouse, Jasna, mentioned. “He appears to be like OK and feels OK. I do not know if it labored as a result of we will not see if there’s new lesions or not.”


In early 2022, 35-year-old Relvas was identified with relapsing-remitting a number of sclerosis after feeling poorly and experiencing signs of a extra severe sickness for a pair years.

But whereas assembly with a neurologist, Relvas says he was handed an inventory of medicine – a “menu,” he and his spouse name it, of medicines that ranged in effectiveness however could not promise to be greater than 50 per cent efficient – and informed to “choose one.”

The Edmontonian was informed he would have to discover the therapy that labored finest for him primarily by means of means of elimination, all of the whereas risking seeing his incapacity rating progress.

“That’s the factor about it,” Relvas informed CTV News Edmonton within the late summer time. “You can really feel nice for some time, after which abruptly, you’ve got a relapse and your imaginative and prescient begins going and you may’t stroll so far as you possibly can. Fast ahead, you possibly can be in a cane or a wheelchair. It will be that quick. Or, you possibly can be good for a really very long time.”

Jasna, again left, and Daniel Relvas, again proper, pose for this undated picture with their sons.

They started researching different remedies utilized by MS sufferers, discovering a way known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

According to the Mexican clinic, 80 per cent of its sufferers with Relvas’ form of MS see their situation enhance or stay secure after therapy. The course of consists of two rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell extraction, extra chemotherapy, and the stem cell transplant.

Actor Selma Blair obtained the identical form of therapy within the U.S., documenting the method in a latest documentary.

The therapy remains to be thought of experimental in Canada. An Alberta authorities official confirmed it’s provided at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre as a part of a medical trial, however sufferers should meet standards and be referred by a neurologist and transplant surgeon.

“Do you recognize something about it?” Relvas requested his neurologist. “She was an automated no.”

It was scary, he mentioned, to hear that from an expert. But the encouraging knowledge and testimony he had discovered on-line have been onerous to ignore.

“I all the time needed to be an lively dad with my children and play and do sports activities and be that sturdy dad. Not one to be wheeled round or stuff like that,” Relvas mentioned.

Daniel Relvas underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation at Clinica Ruiz in the summertime of 2022 to deal with relapsing-remitting a number of sclerosis.


Relvas claims to have by no means been informed he would not have the opportunity to proceed seeing his neurologist if he did go to Mexico.

Clinica Ruiz asks sufferers to have their Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) rating and some different issues monitored upon returning house. Relvas discovered he was being dropped by his neurologist when he known as to make these appointments.

“[The receptionist] mentioned, ‘Your neurologist would not need to see you as a result of she disagrees with what you probably did,'” he recalled.

Relvas says he additionally obtained a letter from his neurologist reiterating the stem cell transplant contravened earlier recommendation and really helpful he search follow-up therapy elsewhere.

“I really feel deserted,” the dad informed CTV News Edmonton.

“What if I got here again and I wasn’t so good? I perceive that if I wanted some additional stuff, like one thing went fallacious and I got here again and mentioned, ‘Please assist me.’ But that is not the case. I simply need to be seen like another MS affected person.”

In a quick assertion, Relvas’ neurologist mentioned he had been given “applicable therapy and followup” and that CTV News Edmonton had been given “inaccurate and incomplete data.”

According to a University of Alberta professor who’s the nationwide analysis chair in well being regulation and coverage, medical doctors have an moral obligation to sufferers.

“When a affected person clearly goes in opposition to your recommendation, it isn’t supposed to be a standards for discharging them,” Timothy Caulfield informed CTV News Edmonton. “But you may perceive how it could pressure that physician-patient relationship in a method {that a} doctor may suppose long run that is going to be detrimental.

“But regardless of that pressure, you may’t let that frustration prejudice the care of the affected person. You nonetheless can discharge the affected person, however you will need to do it in an moral method.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons informed CTV News Edmonton it doesn’t have guidelines relating to continuity of care for sufferers who obtain therapy outdoors of Canada.

“However, any doctor wishing to terminate their relationship with a affected person should have affordable grounds and cling to our Terminating the Physician-Patient Relationship In Office-Based Settings commonplace,” spokesperson Andrea Garland wrote in an announcement.


That Relvas may have come again in worse form – a difficulty regularly spawned by the so-called “stem cell tourism” trade – will be the crux of the matter, Caulfield speculated.

Daniel Relvas underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation at Clinica Ruiz in the summertime of 2022 to deal with relapsing-remitting a number of sclerosis.

Through his work, he is aware of of 1000’s of clinics around the globe providing unproven stem cell therapies.

“There are some conditions the place sufferers go to these stem cell clinics and one thing actually goes sideways. Tumours develop, et cetera. And they arrive again to Canada they usually want medical care,” he mentioned.

He known as the scenario an enchanting intersection of a number of coverage points.

“On the opposite facet, you’ve got this affected person who’s determined and simply needs to get a therapy that’s going to assist their situation. And now that they have it, they need continuity of care. So I get it,” he mentioned.

“They’re Canadians; they want medical care. The health-care system must be there for them. We all make life selections. Those life selections can have penalties. And we hope that the health-care system is there for us.”

A alternative is just how Relvas views it.

“If I make the selection to smoke…and my doctor says, ‘Hey, you should not be smoking,’ he isn’t going to refuse care as a result of I’m making that alternative,” he steered.

Yet, that has been his expertise ever since coming back from Mexico.

“I made my very own telephone calls. I known as neurologists, hematologists, they usually all mentioned I wanted a referral. And truthful sufficient,” Relvas mentioned. “I talked to my physician and he put in these referrals for hematology right here on the U of A, Calgary, they usually all informed him, ‘We’re not seeing him as a result of he did that process in Mexico.'”

He added: “I really feel like I’m shunned from the entire medical subject.”

“I am going do my blood work and I am going on the pc and I search for my bloodwork outcomes. I Google. I analysis. I’m just about my very own physician at this level.”

As for the therapy Relvas obtained, Alberta Health mentioned it’s “awaiting additional proof, which is being gathered by means of these Phase 3 trials, to decide optimum therapy and eligibility standards.”

With recordsdata from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson 


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