Lifewatch: Scleroderma treatment

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

CALIFORNIA, (WECT) - A California man has a life-threatening skin disease and is about to embark on a mission to save his life and help science in the process.

Mark Buenconsejo's disease tightens and hardens his skin, making it difficult to use his hands and fingers.  Now, the disease has taken to his lungs.

"It can get your stomach, kidneys, basically all the organs, the lungs are the most affected by it, so it's just the hardening of tissue in the lungs and it makes it difficult to breathe," said Buenconsejo.

His symptoms began in 2000 when he noticed his fingers would turn blue when cold - from a loss of blood flow.  Then his fingers blistered and became deformed.

In 2006, Buenconsejo was diagnosed with scleroderma.

"Anyone with condition like mine, they give you a life expectancy of about five years and, I'm at three years, so if you do the math, there's a couple of years left, so we are running out of time," said Buenconsejo.

His illness was too far along for him to use his own stem cells, and he couldn't find a matching donor for a bone marrow, stem cell transplant.

Then, Buenconsejo received news there was an alternative - a mother who had given birth donated her umbilical cord and it was a match.

"I'm pretty optimistic about it, but to tell you the truth, they really, you get a nice paragraph of the positives but you get about three pages of the negatives, the risks that you're taking," said Buenconsejo.

He said many people have helped him through fundraisers that were held and hopes to pass it on.

"You have to look at it, if I can help someone, if this is a step to curing scleroderma that's a good thing, because this is one of those diseases that can attack anybody," said Buenconsejo. "It's not genetic, or anything like that, it just happens."

Buenconsejo has already won a battle with his insurance company to pay for the $350,000 needed for the treatment, one which already has shown promise for another woman.