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Stem Cells and Larry Melnar

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  • darlenbaker@aol.com
    My uncle, Larry Melnar, had surgery on Thursday Feb 1, 2007. Check out his story below. The people at the Shiner Brewery, where he works, will have something
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 3, 2007
      My uncle, Larry Melnar, had surgery on Thursday Feb 1, 2007.  Check out his story below.  The people at the Shiner Brewery, where he works, will have something to talk about for awhile. 

      He is doing ok.  He will be in the hospital for a few more days. 

      Darlene Baker

      February 3, 2007

      ID: 11710E444B72ADE8

      Stem cells revolutionize spinal surgery


      By extracting stem cells from the bone marrow in a patient's pelvis, doctors can mix the substance with ground bone and better fuse and stabilize spines following sensitive surgery - helping patients to recover and feel less back pain quicker. Thursday was the first time the relatively new procedure was performed in Victoria - on Hallettsville's Larry Melnar.

      Melnar, 55, suffered from severe back pain for more than 15 years, and lately, the throbbing in his spine and side felt as if "someone was taking a butcher knife and stabbing me with it. It got pretty miserable. I could hardly walk."

      When conservative treatments didn't work for Melnar, doctors recommend he visit Victoria's Dr. Keith Norvill, a neurosurgeon.

      "We extracted the (stem cells) from the pelvis by putting a needle in the bone, and we take the red blood cells," Norvill said. "We then spin them down, and get the precursor cells, the cells responsible for producing the red blood cells."

      The doctor spins those extracted cells down using a centrifuge, separating the stem cells from the other cells.

      When mixed with the ground bone - bone taken from the patient's spine to relieve pressure - those stem cells become the consistency of Silly Putty, which makes it easy for doctors to manipulate and form on the spine.

      Dr. Christopher Chaput, Norvill's business partner who is also a neurosurgeon, said the procedure is unique because the extracted stem cells can be used to fuse tissue that's different from the tissue it was extracted from.

      And because the "the operation itself weakens the spine," Chaput said patients benefit by the strength and stability this stem cell and ground bone mixture offers.

      During this procedure, portions of the bone in the spine are removed - again to relieve the pressure that's causing the back pain.

      To hold the spine together in lieu of the bone that's removed, spinal rods and screws are fixed into the spine to stabilize it while the stem cells grow.

      If the spine was brick, the stem cell mixture, then, is like the mortar that binds it and the titanium together.

      "And since it comes from the patient, the chance of the body rejecting it is minimal," Chaput said. "And there is a 0 percent chance of infecting patients with a transferable disease."

      The fee for the surgeon and assistant can range from $10,000 to $14,000, and that doesn't include the cost of anesthesia, the expensive titanium cage and screws, nor the hospital stay. Total costs vary.

      Melnar's procedure Thursday went well, Norvill said.

      "Three years ago, I would have probably done about the same surgery," Norvill said. "The difference now is the ability to extract highly concentrated bone marrow from the tissue in the pelvis. Those cells are directly responsible for making the bone and the bone marrow."

      Because the stem cells are like building blocks, Melnar should heal quicker. In fact, he was sitting in his bed the morning after his surgery.

      Near him sat his wife, Rose Melnar.

      "To me, he was stressed out a lot because he was always in pain," she said. "He couldn't do a lot of the things he wanted to do."

      Her husband added, "It felt like bone on bone. When I woke up this morning, that pressure was gone."

      Gabe Semenza is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6519 or gsemenza@....

      Copyright, (c) 2007, The Victoria Advocate

    • Pat Lyon
      Cool Darlene! Let Larry know I am pulling for him. There are so many promising treatments on the horizon. Pat Lyon RN, MSN, ANP -- No virus found in this
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 6, 2007
        Cool Darlene!  Let Larry know I am pulling for him.  There are so many promising treatments on the horizon.
        Pat Lyon RN, MSN, ANP
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