How Stem Cells Saved my Daughters Life – Libby Lombardo

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In the first episode of the all new NDIS storytelling podcast, AblePod, Libby Lombardo shares her journey as the mother of Isabella, her daughter who suffers with cerebral palsy. The podcast explores the emotional turmoil, medical interventions, and the journey toward acceptance, highlighting the resilience and love of a mother facing the challenges of raising a child with cerebral palsy.

Ian Coker, the host of AblePod, starts the episode by introducing Libby and acknowledging her media exposure, including a book publication and an appearance on “60 Minutes.” Libby goes on to recount the early days when Isabella’s health issues surfaced, leading to a whirlwind of medical tests and uncertainties. Libby initially kept Isabella’s condition private, struggling with self-blame and disbelief.

As the episode progresses, Libby describes the emotional challenges she faced, including denial and a fear of labels or diagnoses. The turning point occurred when a physiotherapist diagnosed Isabella with cerebral palsy, leading Libby to extensive online research. Despite feeling lost and isolated, she became determined to find ways to help her daughter lead the best life possible.

Part one of the 60 minute documentary following Isabella Lombardo’s journey

Isabella’s parents were actively seeking solutions for her condition, asking every doctor and exploring various treatments. In a waiting room at Randwick Children’s Hospital, they encountered another couple whose child was going to the United States for a surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) to help with pain, mobility, and strength.

Despite facing resistance and negativity from doctors in Australia who dismissed the surgery as unsuitable for Isabella, her parents pursued information about SDR. They connected with a Facebook group of people around the world undergoing this surgery. After witnessing positive outcomes and doing extensive research, they decided to apply for the surgery in the United States.

The application process was thorough, requiring videos, reports, and a waiting period. After four weeks of anticipation, they received a positive response; Isabella had been accepted as a candidate for the SDR surgery. Ian delves into the financial aspect, revealing that the family had to raise over $120,000 for the procedure. Despite feeling unsupported, they remortgaged their house and sought donations to fund the life-changing surgery.

Libby then discusses the aftermath of the surgery, describing the relief they felt when touching Isabella’s legs and seeing the immediate positive changes. The host acknowledges the strength and fortitude of Isabella’s parents in making such a difficult decision and emphasises the resilience of the families they met during this challenging journey.

In the final part of the podcast, Libby Lombardo discusses the progress her daughter, Isabella, made after the surgery in the United States. Isabella’s physical gains were significant, including the ability to stand, take steps, and run. The family returned to Sydney, where they sought acknowledgment from the doctor who was initially against surgery, and he recognized the success. Libby and her partner then delved into researching stem cells as a potential next step. Facing opposition and lack of support in Australia, they went to Mexico for stem cell treatment, which was considered illegal in their home country. The results were astounding, with improvements in Isabella’s body strength, ability to stand, and even addressing issues like constipation.

Libby expresses frustration with the slow progress and lack of funding for stem cell research in Australia. Throughout the podcast, she emphasises the need for change and advocates for bringing these treatments to Australia. Despite the challenges, Libby is determined to share her story, raise awareness, and work towards making these life-changing treatments accessible for others.

The podcast ends with Libby discussing her involvement in boards focused on introducing stem cells in Australia and her commitment to helping other families navigate similar challenges. She believes in the transformative potential of stem cells and hopes for a future where these treatments are widely available and accepted.

To listen to Libby’s inspirational journey in full, you can find the full episode below

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