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A mum-of-one suffering from two terminal illnesses has spoken about her “devastation” at the decision to return home to Exeter from Thailand where she had been promised pioneering medical treatment.
Jo Smith, who is suffering from lymphatic cancer and heart and lung disease, pulmonary hypertension (PH), flew out to the Better Being Hospital in Bangkok with her best friend Sarah Lacey on June 21, but within days the pair had no choice but to return to Exeter.
The 36-year-old former Exeter College student had been in pursuit of what she understood to be her one and only lifeline, which she was able to pursue thanks to the generosity of the public who donated an incredible £30,000 in 15 days as part of the Breathe for Jo campaign launched in the Echo.
Speaking from home after their safe return, Sarah, who organised the campaign explained how things went horribly, and unexpectedly, wrong shortly after they arrived.
She outlined a catalogue of problems from the outset highlighting a frighteningly vague and chaotic situation where the doctor in question had no treatment plan in place, had no idea how to treat Jo and if any treatment he gave her would work.
Upon their arrival, the pair were taken to a “squalid” hotel room before being taken to five different hotels, on foot, bags in tow, through the streets of Bangkok.
It quickly became clear to the friends that the promise of pioneering immunotherapy treatment which they had been led to believe was Jo’s only hope in getting better, was devastatingly not going to materialise.
The hospital had been recommended to Jo by an American man called Don Margolis, the chairman of the Stem Cell Institute in America. The 81-year-old was there in person to meet Jo and Sarah.
After an anxious negotiation with hospital officials, once the £15,000 deposit had been refunded they booked their flights home.
Jo and Sarah said that they started researching for alternative treatment before they had even left Thailand.
Despite this tragic set back, they are showing remarkable resilience and Jo is now being advised by a top Harley Street doctor now based in Exeter.
All funds raised for Jo via the campaign are still vitally needed to fund her treatment, as there is none available for Jo on the NHS – she cannot undergo radiotherapy for the cancer because of the PH.
“I didn’t just want to walk away from it so we gave it a chance.
“We’ve picked ourselves up and were looking at other options before we even came home.
“It’s just so upsetting.
“I feel like I’ve taken 10 steps back. I’m a positive person, but even I’ve started to feel negative now.
“But we’re determined to turn things around and find something else