Beau Gallipeau is almost four, and he runs and plays like any other boy his age. When picked up by his mother, Becky Bossert, he is curious about the flowers on the table. He reaches a hand towards them, and shouts in frustration when he realizes they’re too far away.
A couple years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to see the flowers, or realize they were too far away. Beau is legally blind, and has septo-optic dysplasia. The condition affects his vision and his pituitary gland, which is a quarter the size it should be.
The pituitary gland produces a number of hormones, including human growth hormone. As Beau’s pituitary is so small, he has to receive replacement hormones every day.
In addition to his hormone deficiency, Beau also has vision problems. A couple years ago, he could only see from a small portion of his left eye. Now, he can see five feet in front of him from both eyes.
His vision improvement can be attributed to stem cell treatments, received in China. The cells are obtained from umbilical cord blood and administered to Beau through intravenous injections and lumbar puncture.
Bossert said she noticed an improvement in her son after a few treatments, though the full results can only be seen after a year.
Since Beau received his first round of treatments nearly two years ago, Bossert said she has not seen any negative effects. The stem cells can generate different tissues in the body, and the results are permanent.
Bossert first learned stem cell treatments could help her son after research and communication with the Chinese hospital. She later found out about a distant relative who had received the treatment for the same condition Beau has.
The treatment is only offered in China, where it has been practised for over 10 years. It is not yet completely trusted by the Canadian medical community, said Bossert, because doctors don’t have control of the cells once they are in the patient’s body.
“The way we view it is if it helps him, great,” said Bossert. “They were very good at what they did and very polite.”
Bossert will travel with her mother and Beau to China in January. They will spend 21 days there, with Beau scheduled to receive eight treatments, beginning Jan. 20.
Beau’s family is trying to raise $40,000 to offset the treatment costs. They held a fundraising event Saturday at Sylvan Lake Legion.
Those attending were able to purchase Beau-themed merchandise, and take part in silent or live auctions. His family also organized a hockey tournament in April, in addition to receiving donations from businesses and individuals in the town. Those who wish to make a donation may visit Beau’s website, beausmissionforvision.weebly.com, where they may donate by cheque, email, PayPal, or directly into Beau’s bank account.