PELL CITY – One man living at the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home is trying to raising money for not only a new van, but also a stem cell transplant.

Richard Thompson recently suffered a stroke in the brain.

“What that amounts to is a spot in the brain ruptures, and death occurs to some nerve endings,” he said. “This particular stroke controlled my left arm below the elbow and left leg below the knee.”

Thompson said there is new technology that has surfaced in the past four to five years that is available in order for him to have the transplant.

“I’ve been in contact with the University of Alabama and Stanford University in San Francisco” he said. “San Francisco has a successful stem cell transplant program.”

Thompson said there is a lady in San Francisco who was in the same condition he is in, except her stroke affected her right side.

“They gave her a modified stem cell and they take it right from your own body and put it right into her brain,” he said. “They drilled a small hole and went straight in and deposited these stem cells in about 10 locations around the stroke area. It’s similar to a cigarette burn.”

Immediately her brain started sending new neurons over to that stem cell deposit, Thompson said.

“Within an hour after coming out of her sedation, she was able to stand up on her own out of her wheelchair and take a few steps.” he said. “It turned her brain back on and bypassed that bad spot and made a new circuit there. In the long-term, that’s what I would like to have done.”

Thompson said his immediate need is to raise money for transportation.

He is attempting to get a Ford van.

“The VA has set aside a lift for me,” he said. “It’s one I can pull up on with this cart, hit a button and it will pick me up and put me inside the van. I already have that mechanism. Now, I just need the van.

“I’m trying to raise $48,000 for a Ford F-250 Trans van. The VA will mount the lift inside the van for me. That way, I can drive myself wherever I need to go.”

Thompson, 63, has been confined to a wheelchair the past four years after suffering the stroke when he was 59. He joined the Army at age 18 and stayed in for three years in the infantry division during the Vietnam Conflict.

“I was on the airplane ready to go to Vietnam when they called the mission off,” he said.

Thompson has lived at the veterans home four years. He was in the process of retiring after working for Boeing for a number of years when he suffered the stroke.

Thompson said Wayne Johnson, veterans outreach agent for the St. Clair County Extension Office, has been a huge help to him.

“He’s a really nice man and does a great job of helping veterans in this area,” he said.

Thompson said he hopes he can one day have the same procedure the lady in California had and have it in Birmingham.

“I am already on the list for the study at UAB,” he said. “It’s a double-blind study. They are not actually doing the same stuff like they did out in California, but they are starting their second round of studies. I’m just waiting for them to call me. I try to call them at least once every three months.”

Thompson has two daughters and five grandchildren. He has a GoFundMe website account. Anyone who would like to donate and help Thompson can go to https://www.gofundme.com/Veterans-Van-Fund

Contact Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.