(September 2012) Barry Brown never played professional football but he looks like an inside linebacker. His broad, muscular shoulders and v-shaped body hide the truth about his past health. So when he tells you he was on his deathbed with heart disease just four years ago, it’s a little hard to believe.
Barry has been a fitness instructor for most of his adult life; first with the United States Air Force, later at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, and now as the owner of his own company, Athlete in Motion.
He first noticed a problem with his heart back in 2007. He couldn’t work out on the treadmill for more than 20 minutes without getting exhausted and feeling a strange stinging sensation across his back.
“Come to find out, the reason why I was feeling that was because I had the majority of my blocked arteries was on the back side of my heart”, said Brown. “Between 2005 and 2008, somewhere along there, I actually had a heart attack and I never even knew it.”
Doctors told Barry he needed triple by-pass surgery. But they were also offering him the chance to try something new. The University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine was looking for heart patients for an adult stem cell trial called ‘Prometheus’. Barry’s attitude was, “why not”.
So working with Dr. Joshua Hare of the Miller School’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, Barry entered the study and adult stem cells were harvested from his bone marrow. During his heart surgery, the adult stem cells were injected into his heart.
“The Prometheus Study was designed to test whether giving bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells from a patient, injected into the same patient at the time of heart surgery, would help improve the heart function and help reduce the amount of scar tissue in the heart,” said Dr. Hare.
Barry’s recovery was slow and painstaking. But he gutted it out and got back into his workout routine. He decided to test his new heart by entering a half marathon on the three-year anniversary of his adult stem cell transplant.
Barry’s fiancé, Oria McAuliff, ran with him. And after 13 grueling miles, Barry and Oria crossed the finish line together with new hope. “I’m so proud of him…he’s worked very hard. I’m his biggest cheerleader and supporter but he’s my greatest inspiration”, said Oria.
Even Dr. Hare is amazed with Barry’s recovery, “The fact that he participated in the study, got the stem cells and is running marathons later is phenomenal.”
Barry says, “stem cells, to me, you know, it’s like, the penicillin of our generation. I think Dr. Hare and the guys at UM and the other studies that are going on around the U.S. are proof that adult stem cell research isn’t a waste of money. There are just too many great stories out there.”
Stories like Barry Brown’s.