Revolutionary MS treatment

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One, two, three...

(SINGS) # I fell into the bottle

  1. Washed up on the shore

  1. On this private island he was waiting at the door

  1. Little girl

  1. Ooo, ooo

  1. You need something to believe in

  1. Little girl

  1. Ooo, ooo

  1. Here's what I know, higher you go

  1. Harder, harder, harder, harder it gets. #

Chrissy Amphlett: Right, let's go and do this.

RAHNI SADLER: Chrissy Amphlett is on her way to hospital for a controversial new treatment. Multiple sclerosis has ravaged her body since symptoms first appeared 14 years ago.

Chrissy Amphlett: Where I think it began, when I was doing the 'Boy From Oz', when I would hit that last note of Judy Garland, my leg would start to shake and I just thought it was nerves.

Chrissy Amphlett: I had a few hours sleep.

Chrissy Amphlett: It wasn't until about 2005, I was walking along the street, I was walking along 19th Street. It was very hot and I couldn't walk. All of a sudden my body shut down and I couldn't - I had a lot of trouble putting one leg in front of the other. Sometimes you get pretty down. Sometimes you think, well, it's better off me being dead than going through this. I mean, it really gets you down. I think there's a really high suicide rate with people with MS, right? Because you just get sick of it.

RAHNI SADLER: Two decades since her diagnosis, this is daily life for Vicky Costa. At 20, she started getting blurred vision and tingling down one leg.
When you had the diagnosis, were you relieved to have a diagnosis or were you devastated?

Vicky Costa: No, no devastated, devastated. Yeah. The worst thing I ever heard in my life. I last walked when I was 30, which is almost 12 years ago.

RAHNI SADLER: If you had to explain to somebody who doesn't have MS what the worst parts about MS are, what would you tell them?

Vicky Costa: Not having any hope for a cure.

RAHNI SADLER: But here in Italy, there is a new hope. I've come to meet Dr Paolo Zamboni, a vascular surgeon. In 2008, he devised a radical treatment after his wife, Elana, was struck down by MS. Paolo Zamboni wasn't prepared
to just accept his wife's diagnosis of MS or her seemingly hopeless future.
Instead, he applied his scientific training and experience to finding out all he could about one of life's most baffling diseases.

Dr Paolo Zamboni: A disease like this in families is very heavy.

Dr Paolo Zamboni: RAHNI SADLER: You can see the blockage right there?

Yes, exactly here.

RAHNI SADLER: Dr Zamboni discovered most patients with MS had blockages
in the veins in their neck. His theory was that because the blood was not circulating properly, deposits of iron were building up in the brain, becoming toxic and attacking the nerves. His method is to unblock the veins
using a tiny balloon threaded up via a vein in the groin. His first patient was his wife. The results were incredible. It brings a big smile to your face.

Dr Paolo Zamboni: Oh, yes. (CHUCKLES)

RAHNI SADLER: Other patients, like these, followed. Every one has found improvement.

Woman: For me, it's very difficult to walk. Now, I dance and it's fantastic. I have a heart full of happiness.

RAHNI SADLER: But the blocked veined theory contradicts everything the medical establishment believes. Most neurologists dismiss Zamboni's apparent success as mere placebo - patients just think they're getting better. The treatment is so new there haven't been large clinical trials to back up his view.

Dr Paolo Zamboni: As a scientist, I need of study, capable to prove this.

RAHNI SADLER: And if the studies bear out what you found so far, how much of a difference could it make to millions of people around the world?

Dr Paolo Zamboni: It will change the quality of life to million of people.

Chrissy Amphlett: You know, things are possible, you know. I believe. I'm an optimist.

RAHNI SADLER: Patients like Chrissy Amphlett aren't willing to wait.

Chrissy Amphlett: There's been something I've wanted to do for over a year now. I wake up in the morning and everything hurts, everything, and sometimes it feels like I have a python that's wrapping around my body and squeezing my body. It's the weirdest - sometimes I feel like a big shark is biting me on my shoulder. They say that I will be in a wheelchair in four years.

RAHNI SADLER: Unblocking the vein seems not only to alleviate the symptoms of MS but to stave off further damage. Do you want a hand?

Chrissy Amphlett: Yeah, I'll just take your arm. We'll go down this way, it will be easier.

RAHNI SADLER: Chrissy will be awake throughout the 3-hour procedure.

Chrissy Amphlett: I'm very excited to know that I feel that I'm going to get
some symptomatic relief from this.

RAHNI SADLER: She's hoping for a result like Kerry Cassidy.

Kerry Cassidy: All right, how much have we got?

RAHNI SADLER: A Melbourne accountant and mum. This is home video of the spasms Kerry suffered before hearing of Dr Zamboni's blocked vein theory.

Kerry Cassidy: When it was explained that people have had blocked jugular veins, I actually went, "Wow, that's amazing" because I have this stiff neck
and I get pain in here. And I start...I kind of was second guessing. I didn't want to get really excited and go "Oh, yeah, this is it!"
But I thought "Hey, that actually makes sense to me."

RAHNI SADLER: On March 11, 2010, Kerry took a chance. She was the second Australian to try the operation.

Kerry Cassidy: The next day I got out of bed and opened the curtains and I went...(GASPS) I almost - I was saying to the kids "Look outside, it's so blue, "look at the trees." "Oh my, God!" Everything was so clear. And I was just sitting in the room, just going, "Is this me? "Is this because
I want to see this?" I didn't realise how much my vision had been affected by the MS.

Chrissy Amphlett: I've just walked out of the operation. It was a really great experience and I know it sounds weird. I am a bit knocked out, I'm a bit blown away by what's happened. I have had cameras up inside me. I've had veins opened that was stenosed. I've got the biggest jugular vein he's ever seen.

RAHNI SADLER: There is as yet no scientific proof of Dr Zamboni's theory.
For sufferers like Vicky, it's too late. As the disease progresses, the damage cannot be reversed.

Vicky Costa: Everyone have a go on the punching bag!

RAHNI SADLER: Her old self is just a distant memory.

Vicky Costa: Oh, look I'm not holding!

RAHNI SADLER: Does that surprise you?

Yeah, I feel like telling her, "Hold on, you're going to fall."

Vicky Costa: I haven't taken time to play these, so, yes, it's been a while.
Um, yeah. I wanted to protect her not to fall and it's me, so it's weird.
I have suppressed a lot. I've been too busy - too busy being strong.

Kerry Cassidy: Good evening. So how are you feeling now compared to how you felt before you had the treatment?

Chrissy Amphlett: Well, it's eight weeks now and I have got my motivation back. I don't have the fritzed, nervous feeling running through my body.
I am now walking eight blocks whereas before, I was walking one block. But I just am really starting to feel like I can look into the future again and have a life and I can possibly have a job.

  1. Saturday night. #

RAHNI SADLER: And on a night not long ago, Chrissy took to the stage with Cold Chisel, performing again.

  1. Black and white...#

Chrissy Amphlett: I feel very grateful because I think I took my body for granted before. But all of a sudden, it's been like, "I don't think I'm going to be in a wheelchair "in three or four years." I know I'm not.

  1. Said to me, shh

  1. I'd already lost my voice

  1. Over and over and over

  1. Over I struggled with my choice.

Chrissy Amphlett: I'm still getting stronger all the time. Like, I've got weight on now.

RAHNI SADLER: Yeah, you've put on weight.

Chrissy Amphlett: Your face has filled out a bit.

RAHNI SADLER: You look healthy.

Chrissy Amphlett: Yeah, it's good, I have an appetite.

RAHNI SADLER: Sexy again.

Chrissy Amphlett: Oh! Thank you!

RAHNI SADLER: I knew that would make you happy.

Chrissy Amphlett: Yes.

  1. Little girl. #

Chrissy Amphlett: I think we got it. I think we did. I think we did. Nice work.