Brentwood woman able to walk again thanks to stem cell treatment - WSMV News 4

Brentwood woman able to walk again thanks to stem cell treatment

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After 15 years of not being able to walk, Sara Davis is on her feet again. (WSMV) After 15 years of not being able to walk, Sara Davis is on her feet again. (WSMV)
BRENTWOOD, TN (WSMV) -

George and Sara Davis stood in the street on a recent fall day, sharing a light moment with friends outside their Brentwood home.

Two couples, smiling and laughing, feeling good about the world on a picture perfect fall day.

Not long ago, this scene would have been hard to imagine because Sara couldn't walk.

Her only means of getting around was a wheelchair, and on some days, only with great effort, a walker.

"Lots of pain, reliance on the wheelchair. It was hard on the family. I had to give up my career," she said.

Sara's husband, George, took photos of his wife to chronicle an impossible journey that started in 2000 on an ambiguous and bumpy road that wouldn't end until 14 and a half years later.

"I had a ruptured disc when I was in my residency at Vanderbilt and developed a disease called arachnoiditis that took eight years to diagnose. In the meantime, we weren't sure what was going on, but I was declining. I went from being able to stand up and walk to walking with difficulty to having to rely on a wheelchair to ambulate," Sara said.

George was always there, doing whatever he could to help his dear wife recover and move on.

"Laying on the couch or having everyone gather around the couch, or in the wheelchair, because that was our life," George said.

George even built a stone wheelchair ramp outside the couple's home.

"One of the blessings in my having been in the wheelchair is that I met many other people in wheelchairs, and it was wonderful to have them in my house because we could accommodate them in our home," Sara said.

As the years ticked by, Sara continued to draw strength from friends and family, smiling through the pain and wondering what would come next.

"Couldn't sit for longer than about 15 minutes at a time and the reality just broke through and it was very, very difficult, and it was hard on our marriage as well," Sara said.

Channel 4 anchor Tom Randles asked George what those times were like for him.

"It felt like there was no way out. That was the thing ...  you just felt like you were trapped in a very, very painful ... in just pain," he said.

"I said, 'Mom, I've exhausted everything I can think of. I need a miracle,' and she reminds me of that to this day," Sara said.

And then, something truly remarkable happened.

Sara's father talked to the owner of a jewelry store in Shelbyville. It was a meeting that would forever change her life.

"He comes in and asks about Addy, and I tell him she's walking, that she got a stem cell transplant, and she's walking. And he says, 'My daughter's been in a wheelchair for over 14 years.' So he immediately calls her and tells her to go on this website," said Jim Hornbuckle with The Jewelry Clinic.

After doing some research, Sara and George went to Scottsdale, AZ, in August 2014 to let Dr. Todd Malan do an experimental stem cell treatment.

"We simply take a lot of those stem cells that are in storage and are doing nothing for you at the time, release them into the system in such a way that they can focus in on whatever condition we're trying to treat and allow the body to finish that treatment process or healing process on its own," Malan said.

A few days later, there was a sign that something was happening in Sara's body.

"So my Mom looks down at my foot and said, 'Sara, your foot ... it's pink! It's not greyish blue!'" Sara said.

The treatment worked, and the joy, relief and tears are still evident now, two years later.

"Our daughter Anna is now a sophomore in college. During her senior year in high school, I took her to the father-daughter dance. And at the end, Sara walks in. And it was like, 'Wow! I'm used to seeing my mom like this!'" George said.

And now, a simple act like standing and watering plants reminds Sara just how far she has come and how thankful she is to have so many loving, giving people in her life, people who have been traveling along her road every step of the way.

"You may be in a situation where you don't want to be the receiver, but that may be a blessing," Sara said.

Since regaining her ability to walk, Sara has been on several big hikes in California with her daughter.

Just last week, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners granted Sara a license to practice medicine.

She is now Dr. Sara Davis, walking wonder.

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