HOUSTON - Here’s a feel-good update about a young woman from Houston we met up with five years ago. She spent most of her life in a hospital bed until doctors used her own stem cells to heal her body.
She's doing better than anyone ever imagined, and now she's helping others who are desperate for medical help.
We first introduced you to Sarah Hughes. She’s now Sarah Shimi, after getting married and now cherishing family life as a wife and mother of two young children.
"One is a toddler and so very energetic. The other one is five months old, so still pretty demanding but not energetic yet," smiles Sarah.
It may sound like a typical situation for a young woman, but not for Sarah.
"It’s rewarding and so much fun and it's nothing I never really expected, especially with all of the medications that I had been on. I've actually always been told I wouldn't be able to have kids of my own, so it's an extra special surprise," exclaims Sarah.
She goes on to say and reflect, "I wasn't expecting to have a normal life, to ever get married or have kids, I was just living day-to-day. What can we do on this day to make it a little less painful and more bearable? We were going for quality of life, not a life, just quality of life."
Sarah started getting sick shortly after she was born, and it took almost a year to figure out what was wrong.
"I was diagnosed with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and it affected not just my joints, but multiple organs and body parts," explains Sarah. She relied on a feeding tube to keep her alive.
In her early 20s, she barely weighed 80 pounds and continued to suffer from life-threatening blood clots and spinal leaks. Finally, doctors told them they were out of treatment options. That's when her family went out on their own and decided to try an alternative treatment.
"When I was 23 years old, we started looking at other avenues, and we came across adult mesenchymal stem cell therapy. We did our research and that brought us to Celltex," says Sarah.
Celltex Therapeutics took some of Sarah's cells and stimulated them, so that they could re-inject millions of her own stem cells to improve her chronic condition. Sarah was soon riding horses and doing normal things for the first time in her life. Her situation was so drastic and impressive, she caught the attention of lawmakers, including that of Representative Pete Olson.
"Her mom, Fiona, was told by her doctors that she would watch her daughter die before she turned 20 years old. Sarah proved those doctors wrong and had stem cell therapy from Celltex Therapeutics," states Rep Olson.
He made sure his fellow lawmakers knew about Sarah's dramatic situation. She got to speak to them and encouraged them to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. They listened and now it's helping others in a medical crisis. The act speeds-up product development and treatments for patients who desperately need them.
Sarah was also invited to the State of the Union Address, where President Donald Trump recognized her as "the future of medicine".
"My life now compared to a long time ago, it has just changed - a complete 180," smiles Sarah. 180-degrees in the right direction, ending her two decades in bed, and allowing her to live a fulfilling life.
Sarah goes back once a year for more stem cells, just to make sure she remains healed from her condition.