Christmas is meant to be a time for celebrating with loved ones, but serious illness can sometimes get in the way. With your help, researchers at the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation are developing new treatment options for people suffering from cancer and other illnesses.
Elly, a Brisbane retiree, knows firsthand the life-changing impact medical research can make. Elly is a clinical trials patient of Associate Professor Rachel Thomson, the head of our Respiratory Research Unit and Principal Investigator on a number of clinical trials.
For over 20 years, Elly has suffered from a nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM), an increasingly common form of lung infection. It’s a difficult illness to pronounce and it’s been even more difficult for researchers and doctors to understand and treat.
This is the devastating consequence of a lack of treatment options. For 20 years there was effectively nothing doctors could do for Elly. NTM impacted her life in countless ways. Here’s just a snapshot of what she went through…
- Surgery: “My lungs were so damaged I had to have part of one removed”
- Coughing blood: “An ordeal which left me in hospital and caused the risk of choking”
- Chest infections: “Due to a weakened immune system”
- Trouble sleeping: “It took me two hours almost every night to fall asleep”
- Impact on lifestyle: “I couldn’t work or exercise as I was constantly fatigued and coughing”
- Stigma: “People thought I had the flu and they wouldn’t want to be near me”
In 2016, Elly was given the opportunity to be enrolled on one of Dr Thomson’s clinical trials for a new treatment called ALIS – Amikacin liposomal inhalation solution. It’s a drug developed from research conducted by institutes in the United States which is inhaled into the lungs from a nebuliser, a machine also used by asthma sufferers.
“I had asked Dr Rachel to put me on a trial straight away if one came up and because my case was particularly bad I was chosen for this one,” Elly says, “Nothing had been working and I was at the end of my rope. I knew the potential of this new treatment.”
Once she commenced treatment, Elly could tell almost immediately that this time would be different. Within weeks she began feeling better; the fits of coughing became less intense and reduced in frequency.
“You had to be disciplined on the trial, but my goodness it was worth it. Dr Rachel was incredible, she was with me every step of the way. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Even while still on trial, Elly began gaining more freedom than she’d had in 20 years. The device used to inhale the treatment was simple and portable, allowing Elly and her husband to pack up the caravan, heading up to the Sunshine Coast and then later down to Melbourne.
Relatively early in to the trial, when Elly came in for her regular appointment, Dr Thomson said the word she never thought she would hear, ‘cleared’.
Can you imagine the joy of hearing ‘you’re cleared’ after battling illness for 20 years?
“Dr Rachel came and I threw my arms around her. It was such a big moment of celebration. To think you can just erase a disease like this after 20 years of suffering,” Elly said.
Elly has now been disease free for almost two years and considered cured of this infection. Stories like Elly’s are the reason GMRF is so committed to progressing medical research to the point of clinical trials. You can help us develop new treatments to serious illnesses like NTM, fatty liver disease, and liver cancer by donating today.
We want to bring people together in our fight against illness and we need your help. You can honour a special person in your life this Christmas and help change lives through medical research.
By making a donation this Christmas you are helping our researchers to discover solutions to major health issues. When you make a donation online, tell us about your Christmas Angel, and we’ll add their name to our Christmas Angel Tree at Greenslopes Private Hospital. Your Angel might be a friend battling cancer, a loved one lost too soon, or maybe a clinician who has supported you as a patient. In Elly’s case, her Angel is clear:
“Dr Rachel is my Christmas Angel,” Elly says. “I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. Being on her trial has changed my life.”
Your Angel will join hundreds of others on our Christmas Tree at Greenslopes Private Hospital. This tree will be a tribute to the special people in our lives and a symbol of your commitment to fighting the impact of serious illness this Christmas.