A surgical procedure considered controversial by some has provided Fruitvale twin brothers a “better quality of life.”
Matt and Dan Berukoff both suffered from the crippling effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) prior to receiving a treatment that opens constricted veins.
The brothers traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a year ago to undergo an angioplasty-like treatment not available in Canada.
The new procedure was introduced by Italian vascular surgeon Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who found that the majority of MS patients had blocked veins (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency or CCSVI) that restricted flow in their neck and by opening the veins, blood flow is restored and, ultimately, symptoms cured.
“To me, this is not a cure, it relieves your symptoms a little bit and my main hope is it keeps me in check so I don’t get any worse,” said Dan. “If I stay the way I am now, I’ll be happy.”
Dan has started to take muscle relaxants now because he feels minor symptoms coming back.
But his condition today is far better than last year, when he felt numbness down his left side and stumbled with a foot drop.
He plans to undergo a similar but more affective $8,000 procedure this January by Dr. Todd Harris of Synergy Health, based in California.
Meanwhile, his brother is still riding high after the procedure showed him great results.
“I don’t have too many complaints, when I first went down, I was in pretty bad shape,” said Matt. “I couldn’t walk at all – it’s a miracle.”
The brothers are back enjoying life – fishing, golfing and taking care of the hobby farm they inherited.
But their fight against MS has taken a new turn, as they spread good word on CCSVI while the procedure continues to be put down in Canadian studies.
The “liberation procedure” has been criticized for possibly resulting in serious complications and deaths while its benefits have not been proven.
But the proof is in the people, says Mary Berukoff, who has acted as an activist for her brothers.
She is disgusted that her brothers can’t receive the simple treatment given to other patients for various conditions just because they are labeled “MS.”
“I’m just amazed at the discrimination,” she said. “MS people are vulnerable, they don’t move well, they don’t talk well, they don’t think well, they get brain fog and to have these people take advantage of them is wrong.”
The siblings believe in a different theory when it comes to MS and would like to soon hold a local public meeting to share their insight on CCSVI and why it works.
“I think it’s the blood pooling in your brain and then you get the iron deposits in your brain and you have these short circuits in your brain – that’s what MS is to me,” said Dan.
In 2009, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada committed to funding research on the connection between CCSVI and MS, although later in 2010 it came under criticism for opposing clinical trials of the therapy. The soceity later reserved $1 million toward CCSVI research “when a therapeutic trial is warranted and approved.”