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New treatment gives stroke victim hope

Recorder/Paul Franz
Rodney Krug, 91, of Bernardston at the Bernardston Senior Center.

Recorder/Paul Franz Rodney Krug, 91, of Bernardston at the Bernardston Senior Center.

BERNARDSTON — A five-minute treatment that can permanently reverse many of the effects of a stroke may seem too good to be true.

But the changes a Bernardston man has seen after a weekend trip for treatment has convinced Rodney Krug that Dr. Edward Tobinick of Boca Raton, Fla., is no snake oil salesman.

“I was skeptical at first,” said Krug, 91. He and his family did their homework, researching the doctor and his method.

They didn’t find any red flags, so Krug called Tobinick’s office, and after a 45-minute phone consultation, found out he qualified for the treatment.

Krug had suffered a stroke in 2009, and until recently, he thought he may never regain the use of his right side.

But with the new year came new hope.

On Jan. 1, Krug picked up The Recorder, turned to the “Your Health” section, and read about a stroke treatment Tobinick has researched for about a decade and administered since 2010. It made claims of wheelchair-using patients up and walking around after the treatment, some regaining their ability to speak and others nearly blinded by stroke regaining their vision.

Though Krug’s speech and vision were not affected by his stroke, he suffered partial paralysis on the right side of his body.

“The Friday before his treatment, Rod was hunched over, and couldn’t straighten up,” said Diane Cornwell, director of the Bernardston Senior Center. “His right side was very limp. He was able to shuffle around with a walker, but he dragged his right foot.”

He also couldn’t grasp things in his right hand, and just getting up from an easy chair was a struggle.

When Krug came back to the Senior Center the next Monday, he was like a whole new man, said Cornwell.

“Now he can walk with a cane, though he still uses a walker outside for safety,” she said. “His ‘good’ leg is worse than the one that wasn’t working before!”

Krug will soon start physical therapy for his left knee, and if all goes well, he hopes he’ll be able to ditch the cane.

The physical benefits are great, but the treatment has had a tremendous impact on Krug’s morale as well.

“He’s flying high right now; he’s happier than I’ve seen him in years,” said Cornwell, who has known Krug for the past decade.

With his mobility limited by the stroke, Krug wished for things most of us take for granted.

“He had trouble with his grip, and he was hoping to just be able to carry a dish across the room,” said Cornwell. “His grip is stronger than mine now.”

Krug said he noticed such improvements immediately after his treatment. Though some stick by the adage, “no pain, no gain,” he would beg to differ.

The only pain involved, he said, was the pinprick of an injection in the back of his neck.

“Then, the chair I was in laid back at about a 45-degree angle while someone held my feet,” he said.

While he reclined, the drug etanercept (sold under brand name Enbrel), travelled up his spinal column and into his brain, where it worked its magic.

“This medicine does away with inflammation in the brain,” explained Krug.

Five minutes later, he was upright again, the treatment done.

“They sat me up, and I walked away.”

“I watched, and said, ‘oh my God, he’s lifting his feet!’” said Arlene Senser, Krug’s companion of 18 years.

After Krug’s treatment was done, he no longer dragged his right foot as he had done for the past three years. He’s also able to stand straight and tall; his stroke had left him hunched over. That day, he was also able to raise his right hand high above his head. Since the stroke, the most he could get the limb was shoulder height.

“He said I could see additional benefits if I were to be treated again within a month, but I can’t afford it,” said Krug.

Krug said he hasn’t noticed any regression since his treatment. Tobinick told Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper that his first patients, treated in 2010, still report improved mobility and cognition.

Since his treatment, Krug has been able to get around much better, and has much more use of his right hand. When the weather warms up, the active retiree should find himself quite busy.

“My hobby was always working outdoors,” said Krug.

Krug enjoys carpentry projects large and small, and even built houses for himself and his daughter in Turners Falls years ago.

“I hadn’t been able to swing a hammer since 2009, because my hand didn’t work so well.”

Now, Krug, who was a Sears service technician for more than 30 years, can once again firmly grasp his tools and handle small parts with his dominant hand.

“My dexterity is pretty good now; I used to fumble with small things,” he said. “I was learning to do things with my left hand, but that’s for the birds.”

Senser is glad to have Krug back in action.

“It’s been great,” she said. “He’s doing really well, better than I thought he would.”

The two used to travel in Krug’s motor home together, until he sold it a few years ago. Since the stroke, said Senser, the two have stayed pretty local and Krug didn’t drive out of town much.

Now, they’re both looking to get out more.

“I’ve always been active; I’m no couch potato,” he said. Until the stroke, Krug said he was always being told to “wait up!”

“They used to call me ‘Speedy McGreedy’ in the Good Sams,” he said.

During his 20 years camping with the Mohawk Trail Good Sam Club, he was known for being quick on his feet.

e_SDLqNow, people have to wait for me.”

“He is moving faster since the treatment,” said Senser. “He’s always been very independent.”

Besides his bum knee and the effects of the stroke, Krug said he doesn’t have any real health problems.

Krug is a regular at the Bernardston Senior Center, and serves on the town’s Council on Aging. He’s also an active member of the Greenfield chapter of the Loyal Order of Moose. He also sings with the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Entertaining Others) at retirement homes and local events.

The drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat rheumatoid arthritis, severe plaque psoriasis, and a handful of other conditions. Unapproved uses include Tobinick’s treatment, which is also given to victims of traumatic brain injuries and Alzheimer’s patients.

Since the procedure has not yet been approved by the FDA, most insurance companies don’t cover it, and Krug had to pay out of pocket.

“It was $4,800 for the procedure, and $600 for the consultation,” he said. Those not deemed to be fit for the treatment receive a refund of their consultation costs, said Krug.

For him, it was money well spent. Now, he can get back to doing the things he loves.

Senser, Cornwell, and Krug’s friends at the senior center were all amazed at the treatment’s effects on the 91-year-old. They hope Massachusetts health professionals will pursue Tobinick’s method, which he teaches to other doctors regularly. That, along with FDA approval, could help make the treatment more affordable and accessible to those it could benefit.

For more about the treatment, visit www.tobinick.com/stroke.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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