Controversial new treatment brings new hope for multiple sclerosis-stricken ANNETTE FUNICELLO, her devoted husband says.
After getting the experimental therapy, the beloved Mouseketeer’s mate Glen Holt says, “I saw in front of my eyes things changed – the glow of her face came in.”
Now the star’s 82-year-old second hubby has gone public with the story to help raise funds for more research into what he believes is a breakthrough for Annette and other MS patients.
“When she got diagnosed, I told her, ‘I will take care of you and I’ll do everything I can,’ ” says Holt,
who has spent the last 25 years seeking a treatment that will help the Disney icon. As The ENQUIRER reported previously Annette is now confined to a wheelchair and can’t talk or feed herself.
Annette first noticed symptoms in 1987 – a year after she wed Holt. She went public with her heartbreaking diagnosis in 1992. “I’m human and sometimes I can’t help but ask, ‘Why me?’ ” Annette said before she lost her ability to speak. “But I believe everything happens for a reason, and I know now that my mission is to help others raise funds for MS.”
In 1993, she established the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases – and she and Glen set out to find a cure.
They tried experimental treatments, including having electrodes implanted in her brain to control her tremors. They also tried a drug that sent the “Beach Party” star to hospital intensive care for eight days. But nothing helped.
The progressive disease slowly stole 70-year-old Annette’s quality of life. Now she is fed through a tube and requires around-the- clock care, primarily from her husband. “I love her,” Glen says simply.
He says a fan letter to Annette from another MS patient launched his new quest. Now the notoriously private couple is going public with the treatment he insists made an improvement in Annette’s life.
Italian vascular surgeon Dr.Paulo Zamboni believes MS sufferers have narrowed, or blocked, jugular and azygous veins that prevent blood draining from their brains and spinal cords – a condition called Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency or CCSVI. By opening up the veins with a balloon to improve drainage, his patients reported a reduction of symptoms, he says. But his study prompted other researchers to claim the results are inconclusive.
Yet, Glenn remained hopeful hopeful and decided to pursue the treatment.
In September 2011, Annette was tested at a private clinic by Dr. Donald Ponec, an interventional radiologist in Oceanside, Calif. The test results indicated she had a blocked jugular vein – and blood flow was 30 percent less than normal. Her left vein was completely blocked and the blood was flowing back into her brain, the testing showed.
And as soon as doctors opened up the blockages by inserting a stent, a medical device commonly used in heart patients, Holt said he saw improvement in his wife. “She was brighter than before.”
Prior to the treatment, Glen had to be awake for hours to suction saliva from Annette’s mouth as she slept so she wouldn’t suffocate. But now she can get through the night without his help.
“I see something that’s very positive and it needs to be researched further,” insists Holt.
He’s urging Annette’s fans to help fund a clinical trial of the procedure with donations to the Annette Funicello Foundation. “I want to touch fans’ hearts so they will help us raise some money,” says Holt. “I’m going to continue to fulfill Annie’s wish to help find a cause AND a cure.”