Traveling with high hope

Published 4:25 pm Monday, May 24, 2010

Jeff Crowe, 37, is suffering from Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), a rare genetic disorder and degenerative disease affecting the fine motor skills — walking, talking and seeing. A person with ataxia retains full mental capacity but may progressively lose physical control.

No cure and no treatment is available in the United States. China, however, has a breakthrough treatment that has successfully helped patients with SCA regain their motor skills.

In 2008, Jeff and his wife, Leslie, took their first trip to receive Beike’s stem cell treatments at Qingdao Chengyang Hospital.

Crowe is a former Bessemer Academy high school science teacher. His wife Leslie teaches fourth grade at Helena Intermediate. Their two daughters, Hannah, 11, and Emily, 7, will accompany their parents on this second trip.

“We’re planning on leaving for Atlanta on June 2, spending the night and getting up on the next day for the flight to China,” Crowe said. “We’ll stay in the hospital through July 13, then we’re taking the girls sight-seeing — Great Wall, Summer Palace and the Forbidden City — in Beijing for three days, then it’s back home on July 16.”

The Crowes began a blog just prior to their 2008 trip. Written by both Jeff and Leslie, it posts details from their first China trip up until the present. It can be accessed at

The blog details the procedure that includes acupuncture, electric wave therapy and stem cell injections, given alternately by spinal and IV, and physical therapy.

By the end of the first treatment, Leslie wrote, “I feel like I am witnessing a miracle. I am so thankful that Jeff is seeing the progress we hoped for, that we prayed for.”

This time the Crowes know it will work. Leslie says, “We hope the results will be as good or better than last time, but that is the unknown. We don’t know if his disease has progressed, but we know his quality of life will be better starting with the first treatment.”

The Crowes have kept in contact with several of the other families receiving treatment that they met in 2008. They know of one girl who returned for her second treatment in February and had wonderful results.

As of May 19, funds of about $17,200 out of the $22,000 needed for the trip have been raised in the community. Donations can be made online at Jeff’s website which also contains video footage of the previous trip:

“The city of Helena has been gracious to us not once, but twice. We are so grateful to live in a place with neighbors that care for us,” the Crowes said.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at