SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Santa Barbara resident Jennifer Vasilakos never guessed the man asking for directions was billionaire Ty Warner – until he promised to send her a $20,000 check to help cover the cost of her kidney treatment.
Jennifer Vasilakos was holding a fundraiser in a parking lot to attempt to raise money for a stem cell procedure that could help save her life when a lost Santa Barbaran, Ty Warner, found her. After asking for directions and learning about her heart-wrenching story, Warner knew he had to help.
Beyond the generous donation, Vasilakos is on a journey to bring awareness to stem cell medicine. After being rejected for a kidney transplant due to the removal of a small spot of melanoma from her back last year, which eliminated her eligibility due to increased risk of cancer, Vasilakos began her research. She determined that using her own hematopoietic stem cells could save her life.
“After I serendipitously met Jennifer, I further educated myself on her stem cell needs. I was shocked that this particular type of treatment wasn't available to her in the U.S.,” said Ty Warner, Chairman and CEO of Ty Inc. “My hope is that we can bring this lifesaving treatment to the forefront so that it can become more readily available and provide alternatives for people like Jennifer.”
According to the National Institutes of Health most stem cell work is not embryonic. Hematopoietic stem cell treatment is an alternative option that isolates a cell from the blood or bone marrow and can renew itself and can differentiate to a variety of specialized cells. The Food and Drug Administration regulates stem cells as a drug with clinical trials and fees.
"I think we are missing the boat," said Jennifer Vasilakos. "Economically, it would be better to be the leaders in that industry, collecting the revenue instead of the rest of the world having a jump on us."
Her procedure will take place at a foreign hospital approved by the International Cellular Medicine Society, ensuring its legitimacy. She leaves August 19th to start this leg of her journey and plans to disclose the location when she returns.
All of her bumps in the road have not broken her spirit. Jennifer is on a mission to use her story as an educational tool for those suffering from similar illnesses, highlighting the benefits of stem cell research and other alternative kidney treatments. She has even started a blog describing her story of struggle and the next phase in her journey.
For more information on Jennifer’s story or for an interview, please contact Heather Spilsbury at 310-564-8623 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.