Claire Bungay, left, welcomes Tim Donovan of Beyond MS Association of Canada to a rally in Stratford. Donovan is on a cross-Canada tour called New Hope for Multiple Sclerosis, promoting the government support for the new but controversial surgical procedure to relieve narrow veins.
STRATFORD - Tim Donovan is all smiles as he takes a hop off the floor, all because of a controversial medical procedure being offered to multiple sclerosis patients.
“I couldn’t do that before (getting the treatment,)” he said of his skip during a stop in Stratford on Wednesday.
Donovan has been struggling with MS for 25 years but last summer he travelled to Albany, N.Y. to have what has become known as “liberation therapy.”
It involves widening the veins of the neck and chest using miniature balloons, a procedure known as venous angioplasty.
The procedure pioneered by Italian Doctor Paolo Zamboni is available to MS patients in 46 countries around the world, but not Canada.
Donovan, who is from Frederiction Junction in New Brunswick, is on a cross-Canada tour to try and change that situation. He started May 9 in Newfoundland, driving a vehicle colourfully marked with the tour logo, “New Hope for Multiple Sclerosis.”
“Our mission is to get the treatments available in Canada now,” he said during his stop in Stratford. “The reason for the tour is to educate and bring awareness to Canadians on exactly what’s happening.
“I am all for research and data collection and that type of thing,” said Donovan. “We need a study but we don’t need to wait because this treatment has worked for 12 to 15,000 people already.”
Donovan hopes to speak to political leaders, but has yet to get an interview with the P.E.I. government.
He just completed the Nova Scotia part of his tour before coming to P.E.I. and says the N.S. government has invited him back to speak to the legislature.
Some provinces have promised or even included funding in their budgets for the treatment but no dollars have yet come to MS patients, said Donovan.
Neither is there support from the MS Society, says Donovan.
“We disagree, agreeably,” he said. “There is a brick wall up in front of us. We don’t know who put it there. It doesn’t matter. We are just going to try and go around it and try and get the laws changed to fit the needs.”
Donovan says economics favours government helping to pay for the treatment.
“It costs more to keep me in the hospital and give me the medications that I have been on for the last seven years than it ever costs to have this procedure done.
“We can save the governments money and they are listening.
“In New Brunswick, I spoke to Premier David Aylward. I said ‘you paid $240,000 to keep me in the hospital last year.’ I said ‘I’m not in this year.’ I have been in hospital for the last five years, every year. He listened to that.”
The cost of the procedure is about $1,500 if it were done in Canada, said Donovan.
“My medications alone were $1,700 per month, so it makes more sense economically to do this,” he said.
Donovan agrees that the procedure does not work 100 percent of the time.
“Nothing does, but they need to be following us. There are no trials going on it Canada.
“Someone asked me, ‘what are the side affects of this treatment?’ You know what they are? I have less fatigue, I can think much clearer. I can walk now. I was in a wheelchair half of the year, every year for the last five years. We have never had any hope for M.S. until now. That is why we call it new hope.”