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David Woodward – Neurology Success Story

Making the Impossible Possible

Spinraza is restoring freedom to patients with spinal muscular atrophy

David Woodward never thought he would be able to brush his own teeth again. Born with a type of genetic degenerative condition called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), David’s muscles slowly wasted away, robbing him of his ability to care for himself. At 68, he’s unable to walk, drive, or even make a sandwich and relies on around-the-clock care.

However, just last summer, David became Methodist Health System’s first patient to receive Spinraza® (nusinersen), a brand-new Food and Drug Administration–approved injection that can stop and even reverse the effects of SMA. The drug works by replicating a protein that is lacking due to genetics.

“Children who are born with conditions similar to mine get Spinraza right away — they are thriving and walking,” David says. “While we weren’t sure how it would help me — an adult whose disease has already progressed — we’re already seeing improvement.”

After receiving four injections over a four-month interval, he regained the ability to brush his teeth. One small, yet significant milestone.

After this revelation, David remembers his neurologist, Robert McMichael, MD, on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield, telling him, “I’m about to type into my computer for the first time in my career that someone with spinal muscular atrophy actually made progress. Until now, it’s always been about them losing abilities.”

Preparing for progress

The treatment itself is remarkable for someone like David, but it’s no small undertaking. The procedure requires coordination among several departments. Before each injection, there are hours of lab work and preparation time for the rather simple five-minute procedure, performed by Alvin Anene, MD, interventional radiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield.

“I can’t say enough positive things about Methodist Mansfield,” David says. “Everything they had to go through to give me the opportunity to have this injection — it’s just incredible.”

During the procedure, Dr. Anene first extracts about a tablespoon of David’s spinal fluid to study before administering an equal volume of medication. Dr. Anene then uses radiologic tools to find the best place to inject the medication into David’s spinal canal.

“It can be a long day, but the staff is so wonderful at Methodist,” says David, himself a retired hospital administrator. “I’m not used to professionals being so kind and so caring. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen at a hospital before.”

Hope for the future

Now that he’s received the first four injections, David will return to Methodist Mansfield for quarterly treatments for the rest of his life. “It’s absolutely painless and I haven’t had any side effects,” he raves.

While waiting to see what abilities he may regain next, David is content with his life and the small success of brushing his teeth without assistance.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Dr. Anene says. “He told me about it almost in passing. I probably caught him off guard with how excited I was.”

For now, David starts his day at about 8:30 a.m. An attendant helps him bathe, dress, and eat. The rest of his day is filled with grocery shopping, watching movies, and internet research ­— politics and entertainment are his specific areas of interest.

David says he’s not upset about losing his ability to walk nearly 40 years ago, but what he hopes to regain is his ability to drive.

“That’s what I really miss and the biggest deal for me,” he says. The Arlington resident enjoyed the freedom of getting out and about on his own. “My biggest decision was whether to go right to Dallas or left to Fort Worth.”

With Spinraza and the Methodist Mansfield medical team, that could actually be possible again.

As he attempts to beat his interventional radiologist Alvin Anene, MD, at a game of cards, David Woodward insists that he’s already a winner. Since beginning Spinraza injections, he’s regained movements he thought he’d lost for good.


For a physician referral to a neurologist on the Methodist Mansfield medical staff, call 214-444-7303.