I first began researching stem cell treatment after an accident on October 21, 2009 that left me with a spinal cord injury. I found many companies on the internet that claimed to give effective stem cell treatments. To avoid scams, I reached out to as many medical tourism companies in the United States as possible. In January of this year, 2010, I found the International Medical Tourism Group website. I sent them an email requesting assistance with finding a reputable company overseas that would provide me with the best stem cell treatment. On Sunday, January 24, 2010, I received an email response from case manager, Julia Chen. In her email, she informed me that the International Medical Tourism Group partners with the best stem cell centers in China and South Korea. She also provided me with information on a company called STC Life stem cell research institute. Julia attached a medical evaluation form for me to fill out and asked me to send her my MRI/CT. She told me that this information would be used to inform the doctors of the condition of my spinal cord. After they reviewed the MRI, Julia said that the doctors would then tell me if I could expect recovery from treatment at their center.
I was then referred to Frank Choi and his position was Director of BBN / STC Life Co. He became my new primary point of contact and the person who was responsible for all correspondence for STC Life Co. He explained to me through numerous emails that STC Life Co. is the best in Korea regarding stem cell treatments and that they are the only legit company in all of Korea to do stem cell treatments for spinal cord injuries. He also sent me reports and videos of previous patients that have received treatments who have had major improvements. They portrayed themselves as the best in the business with the best results and the most experience. We discussed umbilical cord stem cells and we (myself, Frank, and according to Frank, the doctors) all agreed that they would be best for my condition. Frank told me that the cost of umbilical cord stem cell treatment is normally $20, 000, however, I could get the treatment for $15, 000 if I booked my appointment before the end of May. Frank told me that each needle injection that I received would have between 20-30 million umbilical cord stem cells. Overall, Frank assured me that while the doctors could not guarantee anything, they were confident that they could get me up and standing with this treatment. Frank told me that most of the procedures would be performed in the Konkuk University Medical Center to “avoid any potential complications such as, infection.” All I had to do now was raise money and book a flight to go to the STC Life Co for treatment.
On Tuesday, June 8, 2010, we arrived at the Incheon airport. We met Frank Choi and they (Frank was accompanied by a man who drove us in an ambulance) took us to the hotel for check in. The original hotel reservations was made by Frank Choi at a higher rate then we had booked the same hotel on the same day. Frank Choi was upset that there were two reservations for the same hotel but we still checked in and went to our room. Frank came with us and we had a brief discussion. Frank said that Brian Kim would be our new point of contact. We were a little concerned however, Frank told us that he would still come to our appointments for treatments with us. Frank then told us that he was leaving to give us time to get rested up. He said that he would be picking us up the next day at 11am and then he left. As soon as we (myself, my wife, and my mother) settled into our room, I received a telephone call from Brian Kim with STC Life. Brian said that he was going to pick us up the next day for my first day of treatment at 9am. That evening Frank Choi sent me a message on skype. I asked him to confirm the time of pick up for the next day. I explained to him that Brian had called and told me that he would be picking us up at 9am and not 11am. Frank assured me that the correct time was 11am. He then said that Brian would be picking us up but he would also be joining us on that first day around 12noon.
On Wednesday, June 9th (my first day of treatment), Brian came with the same gentleman in the ambulance from the day before to pick us up. Brain Kim said that he was very new. He had only been with STC Life for about 4 months. He said that he is a Chinese medical doctor however, he is only licensed to practice in Canada. Brian also said that he is the director of international affairs with STC Life. When we arrived at the facility we noticed that the name on the building and inside the office was Seoul Cosmedi Spa. It was not a clinic or a hospital at all. We went to their meeting room.We had a meeting with the doctors and company representatives. They showed us a video of a lady who received treatment and a few spinal cord cases that they had treated. Brian attended the meeting with us and while Frank had never showed up, based on all of the information I had received (before and after arriving in Korea), I felt comfortable moving forward with this company for my stem cell treatment and we paid them $15, 000 in cash. After we made our payment in full, things began to change and the lies and finger pointing began to unfold.
All of the cases and videos that were showed to us was at a different facility, different doctors, and were created in 2005, 5 years ago. All of the treatments I received were at the Seoul Cosmedi Spa facility. I never went to any clinic or hospital. The number of stem cells changed. The doctor and Brian told me that I would now receive only about 8 million umbilical cord stem cells per injection. I was given a document to sign in Korean. Brian Kim said that it was a consent form to match my cells to the cells that they had. I was the only patient there. When I received my first injection, I noticed 1st the color of the stem cells was clear not red. The nurses did not wear any gloves. My mother and wife had to continuously request that they wear them. The nurses did not speak English. I was given normal saline in an IV and a spinal injection. There was never any pain medication or numbing topical applied on the areas that I received needles . During treatment, while the doctor was preparing for my spinal cord injection, a man who worked for STC came into my room and began yelling in Korean. He then made a call on his cell phone and walked over to the door where he proceeded to speak very loudly on his cell phone until one of the nurses walked over and closed the door on him. (We have video of all of this.) After treatment, I experienced a fever that evening.
The next day, we told them that I had experienced a fever and they said that a previous patient had experienced something similar to that before and he developed herpes sores around his mouth however after a few days everything was fine. There was never any formal neurological progress checks nor any general medical checks for improvement. The doctor that performed my injections originally said that she did not speak English however towards the last few days we noticed that she spoke good English when she wanted to. During times that we asked questions about my improvement, she only wanted to speak in Korean, which forced Brian to translate to us. Towards the last few days, Brian and the doctor that we had been seeing seemed to no longer have answers to any of our questions concerning the things that Frank had told me prior to coming. They told me that Frank did not work for STC Life and if Frank told me anything different concerning my treatment, I would have to speak with him directly. Frank never showed up to our first meeting. I did receive a message from him on Skype on June 10th saying that he had to go to the hospital to be treated for herpes zoster. Frank never attended any of the meetings we had with the doctors or other directors of STC to confirm everything that was said during email. We did not see Frank Choi again until our last day, June 16, 2010, when we were headed to the airport.
I do not see how this was the state of the art facility in the video that was sent to me or showed to me when I finally arrived in Korea. Being the only patient that was there in the entire clinic makes me question the validity of the whole company. Overall I did not see the professional company that was originally presented to me. I expressed all of my concerns once I returned home but they have been ignored. I still have not received any improvement. I am fearful that they may have given myself and my wife herpes. I am also concerned that they may have given me another compound. They have taken my money and now I am concerned that they are a fraudulent company that preys on victims with severe injuries.