DETROIT >> Finally, some good news on Gordie Howe.
After a stem cell clinical trial, Howe is walking unaided and taking part in daily household chores according to a statement from the family.
“Our family decided to give our father this opportunity,” the statement read.
Howe underwent the two-day, non-surgical procedure on Dec. 8 at Stemedica, a biotechnology company that manufactures allogeneic adult stem cells in its U.S. government licensed facility in San Diego, California.
The treatment included neural stem cells injected into the spinal canal on day one and mesenchymal stem cells by intravenous infusion on day two.
“His response was truly miraculous,” the statement continued. “At the end of Day 1 he was walking with minimal effort for the first time since his stroke. By Day 2 he was conversing comfortably with family and staff at the clinic.”
The family was contacted in late November by Dr. Maynard Howe and Dave McGuigan. McGuigan knew the family as a result of his previous employment with the Wings.
“When tested, his ability to name items has gone from less than 25 percent before the procedure to 85 percent today,” the statement said. “His physical therapists have been astonished. Although his short-term memory, strength, endurance and coordination have plenty of room for improvement, we are hopeful that he will continue to improve in the months to come.”
The company is currently conducting federally licensed and institutional Review Board approved clinical trials for several medical conditions, including stroke, using Stemedica’s stem cell products.
“At the time we were contacted, Mr. Hockey had been rapidly declining and was essentially bedridden with little ability to communicate or to eat on his own,” the statement added.
Howe, who’s known as “Mr. Hockey”, is 86 and has been living with his daughter, Cathy, in Lubbock, Texas.
Howe suffered a significant stroke on Oct. 26, which impaired his speech and caused him to lose functionality of the right side of his body.
He’s had a couple mini strokes since.
Howe has been suffering from dementia for several years and recently underwent spinal stenosis surgery.
Howe, who spent the first 25 seasons of his career with the Wings, still holds franchise records for games played (1,687), goals (786), points (1,809), power-play goals (211) and game-winning goals (121).
Howe is the NHL’s all-time leader in games played (1,767) and ranks second in goals (801), third in points (1,850) and ninth in assists (1,049).
Howe finished his career with the Hartford Whalers at age 52.
He made the last of his 23 NHL All-Star Game appearances that season at Joe Louis Arena.
He got to play alongside his sons, Mark and Marty, in the World Hockey Association for six seasons where he totaled 30 goals four times and reached 100 points at least twice.
Howe’s wife of 55 years, Colleen – known as “Mrs. Hockey” – died in 2009 after a lengthy battle with Pick’s Disease, an incurable neurological condition that causes dementia.