John Reid has his sister to thank for his decision to fly to Costa Rica for the controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Reid, 51, who is from Newfoundland and his sister, Mary Jacobs, 55, of Hamilton, were both diagnosed with MS eight years ago.

Jacobs flew to Costa Rica with her husband Byron Jacobs on Aug. 27 for the treatment. She’d lived with the debilitating symptoms of MS for years and was confined to a wheelchair. She had hoped to be able to walk even a few steps without a wheelchair.

But her biggest dream — and it was one she almost dared not say aloud — was to be able to get down on the floor by Christmas and play with her grandchildren.

Not only is she able to roll about with those grandchildren, she regularly gets down on the floor to do Pilates exercises.

“It’s changed my life,” says Jacobs, smiling. “I can even visit friends’ houses who have stairs. I haven’t done that for eight years.”

The liberation treatment, as it’s called, is still widely controversial and has varying results.

The procedure is the brainchild of Italian researcher Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who believes clogged veins in the neck and chest trigger the disease. Reports from patients who have had the procedure vary widely but Jacobs and her brother are among the success stories.

Reid decided to have the procedure after seeing how well his sister did. He flew down to Costa Rica with Byron two weeks ago and, says Jacobs, is doing “great.” Sister and brother met during a stopover in Toronto three days before Christmas.

Jacobs said her brother had almost completely lost the use of his hands, which were curled tight in a ball. Now, he’s able to slowly open them.

Jacobs said that within five hours of having the procedure, she was able to lift her legs and stand up, things she hadn’t done for years.

“I couldn’t transfer myself from my wheelchair to a chair before without dragging my legs. Now I can stand for a few minutes and move myself over,” said Jacobs.

Her range of movement is steadily returning, thanks in part to a daily exercise routine. Jacobs estimates the trip with air fare and the treatment cost $18,000.

“More than worth it,” she says. “I feel amazing. I used to go to bed at 9:30 at the latest. Last night I was talking on the phone to John until quarter to 12.”

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