EXETER — One crisp autumn day nearly nine years ago, Bryan “Dan” Bomboy was helping a 90-year-old woman by cleaning her rain gutters when he slipped on a piece of moss on her roof and fell, landing on his head.
Bomboy, of Exeter, was flown to Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, where he was put on life support, flat lined several times and, after coming out of a coma, was told he would never again move anything except for his eyes.
Some intense physical therapy enabled him to regain some movement in his left arm. But that was the most progress Bomboy, now 50, made until last October, when he flew to California and received stem cell injections.
“I’m moving my right arm now for the first time in seven years. I can rub my eye or scratch an itch, I can swat away a fly. You can’t imagine eight and a half years of not being able to do those things,” Bomboy said.
Bomboy received his first round of injections at the California Stem Cell Treatment Center on Oct. 17, 2012. Stem cells were taken from his back in the “love handles” area and injected into his spine at his neck and lower back.
Bomboy was injected with his own stem cells, becoming the first quadriplegic to receive this treatment. His doctors were skeptical about the potential for success but are amazed by his progress, he said.
In addition to the doctors at the treatment center, Bomboy expressed gratitude to Tom Swartwood and Georgia Cwynski, his occupational therapists; Daria Palka, his nurse; and his family and friends for their prayers and support.
Swartwood, Bomboy’s occupational therapist for the last three years, was amazed at his progress. “It’s been nothing short of remarkable,” he said. “This is really plowing new ground.”
One of the most immediate benefits of the therapy that Swartwood noticed was Bomboy’s improved ability to retain body heat. “This guy used to be bundled up all the time. That changed immediately. Today, he’s wearing a t-shirt and has a fan blowing on him.”
Bomboy still doesn’t have any movement in his fingers or below his chest, but he hopes another trip to California will change that.
He plans to go for his second stem cell treatment on Oct. 1. Because of the improvements he has shown so far, he has been told the next round of injections should allow him to regain movement in his fingers. With this recovery, he hopes to be able to feed himself and possibly get back to work.
He also wants to help others by spreading the word about stem cell therapy.
“I am hoping to bring awareness of this procedure to the East Coast, which would benefit so many other people besides myself,” he said.
In the third week of October he will give a lecture on his experiences to occupational therapy and physical therapy students at Misericordia University, where Swartwood teaches. He’ll put the lecture fee towards the cost of his therapy.
Because the treatment is still relatively new, it is not covered by Medicare, so he has had to rely on donations and proceeds from fundraising events put on by his loved ones. Bomboy still needs $3,500 to receive the next treatment.
The next fundraisers are a line dancing and raffle event on Sunday at the Cracker Barrel bar in Catawissa and a percentage-of-sales event next Tuesday at Froyo Mania frozen yogurt shop in Wilkes-Barre.
Times Leader staff writer Steve Mocarsky contributed to this story.