Lewis launches Hadassah MS drive

Mark Lewis speaking in Melbourne.

MARK Lewis visited Melbourne (March 5) and Sydney (March 8) to explain to Australian audiences his extraordinary experience with a stem cell treatment trial for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem.

At the Beth Weizmann Community Centre, the British lawyer reflected, “My right hand withered and died, but Jerusalem didn’t forget me.”

Lewis, his partner Mandy Blumenthal, and distinguished Israeli neurologist Professor Tamir Ben-Hur are here to help launch Hadassah Australia’s STEM campaign to raise $US500,000 towards R&D into neurological disease.

Lewis, a London media lawyer, is no stranger to challenges, making headlines during the News of the World phone hacking scandal, representing a client in the first civil case, and the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, which led to the tabloid’s closure.

Through his involvement with UK Lawyers for Israel, Lewis met Blumenthal, who introduced him to staff at Hadassah hospital, where he joined a clinical trial as one of 48 patients. In the trials neither patients nor researchers know who is getting a placebo.

Lewis regularly flew to Israel for 11 bone marrow extractions, in which stem cells from his bone marrow were reinjected into his spinal cord. Within hours, he noticed a significant improvement in his limbs and speech.

He said the original relief of symptoms after treatment receded a little, but his stem cell regime has yielded important net improvements in his more than a quarter-century battle with MS, which began at the age of 25.

Ben-Hur, chair of Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Centre’s Department of Neurology and director of its Clinical Neurosciences Centre, explained faulty stem cells do not provide covering tissue for nerves.

The treated cells must be delivered through the spinal fluid into the central nervous system from where they flow to the brain.

In an impassioned endorsement of the Hadassah Australia campaign, Blumenthal said since meeting Lewis, she found “there were three of us in our relationship … Mark, myself and MS. And MS was there 24 hours a day.”

“People say there’s one in 20 people affected by MS. It’s a lie. It’s not only the people who have the physical symptoms that have MS. Anybody that has somebody that they love, somebody in their life that’s affected by MS, knows how much it affects their life as well,” she said.

“I’m asking you from my heart to your heart to help my Mark and everyone else’s Mark.”

To donate visit www.hadassahaustralia.org

PETER KOHN