Johnstown boy in Hanover for innovative therapy to treat cerebran palsy.
By MELODY ASPER
Evening Sun Correspondent
Until he was 4, Maxwell Orr’s cerebral palsy seemed more of an inconvenience than a handicap. With frequent medical treatments, the Johnstown boy, now 7, could even walk with some assistance.
Then a severe respiratory infection sent him into cardiac arrest. Emergency personnel were able to restart his heart, but a stroke severely injured his brain.
For three years, Max was in a near-vegetative state.
His parents, James and Laura Orr, resigned themselves to finding treatments to help their son.
A barrage of home therapies improved his awareness slightly and there were slight movements in his arms and legs.
Then the Orrs heard about electromagnetic stimulation of the brain, a yet-unproven therapy whose proponents say it works almost like magic.
The therapy, called Magnetic Molecular Energizing, is being tried in just six places in the United States, including the Advanced Magnetic Research Institute in Hanover, owned by Dr. Trent Nichols Jr.
Max began his first sessions in April and soon will conclude nearly 450 hours of treatments for as long as 20 hours at a time. Although Max still breathes through a trachea tube and needs a feeding tube to eat, there have been highly emotional successes.
“He’s thriving now. Physically and neurologically, he is recovering,” said James Orr. “There’s a long way to go, but it’s been nothing short of a miracle.”
Donna Farabaugh, one of the team of nurses that attends to Max 24 hours a day, said the boy can turn his head from side to side. He can now see things up to four feet away, when previously his sight was limited to just 18 inches.
“Before Max came here, he couldn’t move his hands or arms. Now, he can move his hand and pet his stuffed animals. He even moves his hand from one animal to the other,” she said.
With Farabaugh’s encouragement, Max pushes the button of a plastic turtle with his little hand, making the toy’s beads whir and buzz. The boy’s face visibly brightens.
Nichols, who has treated more than 1,000 patients with MME for a wide variety of ailments, said he’s not surprised at Max’s improvement. A recent study showed that 41 of 45 cerebral palsy patients had dramatic improvements, Nichols said.
MME treatments still do not have FDA approval, but Nichols’ work is part of a study being conducted by the Institutional Review Board. In this way, Nichols and other researchers are able to treat patients and then submit their data to the FDA, which is continuing to evaluate MME treatments.
“It’s important to realize that we still aren’t sure why it works, just that it does work in a lot of cases,” said Nichols. “This is the future of medicine.”
Working with the same type of energy as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), MME generates a magnetic field, which increases the speed of electron movement in cells. Nichols said it acts as a catalyst, which can trigger repair and regeneration of damaged nerves, blood vessels, bones and other body tissues.
MME uses a powerful five-ton air-cooled electromagnet placed above and below a bed.
During treatment, the patient just lies on the bed and can talk, watch television, read or sleep. Many patients feel an immediate relief from pain, said Nichols.
Generally, patients feel no other sensation except for a slight tingling or glowing, he said, which could be a result of the healing process beginning.
Nichols came to Hanover 27 years ago when he was recruited by Hanover Hospital as a doctor specializing in digestive disorders. His Magnetic Research Institute is housed next door to his gastroenterology practice at the Eichelberger Professional Building on Stock Street.
Nichols said he became interested in magnetic research in 1986 after he broke his leg in eight places in a bicycle accident. After being in traction for 99 days, Nichols started looking for something that would ease the pain and encourage his leg to heal.
“That was my first glimpse of magnetics, but after just a few treatments, I knew this was something really amazing,” Nichols said. “My pain decreased dramatically and my bones began to knit much faster.”
A pilot study done by Nichols and other doctors suggests several major applications for the therapy, including wound healing, tissue regeneration, immune-system stimulation, treatment of osteoarthritis, bone repair, electro-acupuncture and nerve stimulation.
He said doctors are seeing promising results on patients with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-stroke impairment, autism, osteoarthritis, herniated disc disease, avascular necrosis of the hip, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, fibromyalgia, cardiomyopathy, liver disease, Lyme disease, sports injuries and even – to a limited extent – Alzheimer’s disease.
Nichols said that all the studies being done have shown no adverse side effects except for an occasional temporary headache, dizziness or nausea. Also, treatments have never been shown to make any existing problems worse.
Nichols’ wife and institute co-owner Sharon Nichols said the only downside she can see is that the treatments aren’t covered by insurance because they aren’t fully recognized by the FDA. That means that the $50 per hour must be paid by the patient’s families or through community support.
In Max’s case, the whole area around Johnstown has worked together, raising the thousands of dollars for treatments and nursing care.
“What is needed right now is a lot of additional funding so that more people that need it can benefit from the MME,” said Sharon Nichols. “There are so many children out there like Max who could be helped. They don’t deserve to be locked in the bodies that they have been given.”
ABOUT MAGNET THERAPY
Many civilizations throughout history have used magnets to treat illness. Ancient Egyptian priests and the fourth century Greek physician Hippocrates documented the use of magnets. The 15th century Swiss physician and chemist Paracelsus hypothesized that magnets may attract diseases out of the body.
In modern times, magnetic fields play an important role in Western medicine. For example, they are used in magnetic resonance imaging.
Some practitioners have theorized that magnet therapy may improve circulation, increase blood oxygen, alkalinize bodily fluids, decrease deposition of toxic materials in blood vessel walls (such as cholesterol plaques) or relax blood vessels through effects on cellular calcium channels. Other theories describe altered nerve impulses, reduced edema or fluid retention, increased endorphins, muscle relaxation, cell membrane effects or stimulation of acupoints. Some traditional Chinese medicine practitioners suggest that magnets may affect patterns of flow of the body’s life force, known as chi. None of these theories has been adequately assessed by scientific research.
Magnet therapy has been suggested for many health conditions. Available research supports the use of pulsed electromagnetic fields to improve the healing of some fractures, although this technique is not clearly superior to other approaches such as bone grafting. Studies of other medical uses of static magnets or pulsed electromagnetic fields are not conclusive.
Anecdotally, magnets may cause dizziness or nausea or may prolong wound healing or bleeding. Some practitioners discourage the use of magnet therapy during pregnancy or in people with myasthenia gravis or bleeding disorders. Scientific evidence is lacking in these areas.
Magnet therapy is not advised as the sole treatment for potentially severe medical conditions and should not delay diagnosis or treatment with more proven methods. Patients are advised to discuss magnet therapy with a qualified health care provider before starting treatment.
Do not rely on magnet therapy alone to treat potentially dangerous medical conditions. Speak with your health care provider if you are considering the use of magnet therapy.
This information is taken from Aetna’s InteliHealth Web site and was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School. For more information, go to http://www.intelihealth.com and search the site for “magnet therapy.” Then click on “document results.”
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