This is the real story of Darek Fidyka, a Polish fireman stabbed in 2010 while he was doing his job. Since that time, when he got the spinal cord injured and remained paralyzed from the waist down, he thought he was destined forever to a wheelchair, until research changed his destiny.
Poland and England have worked together during forty years to develop a research program that now is giving incredible results, described in the magazine Cell Transplantation, that, however, require continuous testing to be confirmed.
In 2012, doctors have taken from Darek one of his olfactory bulbs, which are special because they contain specialized cells called olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) that allow the nerve fibres of the olfactory system to be continually renewed. Then the cells, together with the fibres of the nervous tissue taken from the patient’s ankle, grafted in the same injury, were injected where the lesion was in the spinal cord. According to the researchers’ predictions, the nerve fibres can regenerate the spinal cord and repair the lesion.
The operation was followed by several cycles of physiotherapy, until obtaining in 2014 an incredible result: Darek moved a few steps with a walker. Since that time there have been further improvements. Darek Fidyka, who is now able to walk slowly using crutches, though with great difficulty, said: “I can feel every muscle and the pressure of the feet on the pedals. I feel stronger. A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to ride a tricycle”. The patient has also regained bladder control and sexual function.
On 8th March, some Polish doctors presented the Wroclaw Walk Again Project aiming to find two more paralyzed people with the spinal cord completely injured, willing to undergo the same testing. “If we can fill the space between the two stumps of the spinal cord – says Pawel Tabakow, head of the project – then it means that we have found a cure for paralysis and therefore we may also help patients with more common injuries caused by compression or crushing”.