CALGARY – They call it the miracle of stem cells and it was nothing less than a miracle says Marty Howe about his dad Gordie’s recovery.
At a press conference Tuesday in Calgary for the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S annual hockey Pro-AM , Marty Howe talked about how the stem cell treatment saved Gordie Howe’s life after suffering two strokes.
“He probably had a month to live the way he was going, he was deteriorating pretty fast. To have him now back and be able to relate to everybody really helps,” Marty Howe said.
The Howe family remains positive and believes Gordie might be able to travel again and attend events soon. Marty Howe said his dad is already planning to attend an event in Saskatoon next month.
“He can walk, he’s got a sense of freedom now. He can play with the grand kids. He still needs to work with his speech, he can’t sign yet but hopefully in the future he will be able to,” Howe said.
“It’s a joy to have him with us still. It’s nothing more of a gift. He’s down in Texas with my sister and we have caregivers that have been coming in for the past two and a half years too.”
Gordie Howe has a form of dementia and the 86-year-old suffered his most recent stroke just before Christmas last year due to dehydration.
A group of doctors, who happened to be named ‘Howe’, contacted the family and told them about a stem cell treatment they could offer for Gordie Howe. So the family went down to Mexico to give it a try.
Gordie’s health improved dramatically. Soon after, he was able to walk and speak again. The family says Gordie plans to do a second treatment in two months.
Known as “Mr. Hockey,” Howe was the NHL’s Most Valuable Player six times. He played on four Stanley Cup championship teams in Detroit during a 25-year stint that began in 1946. The league scoring records he set stood until Wayne Gretzky broke them.
Both Gordie and his son Mark Howe are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
His late wife, Colleen, who managed her husband and sons’ hockey careers, died in 2009.
This annual charity hockey tournament was renamed this year “The Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S Pro-Am Hockey Tournament.”
It raises funds for the Gordie Howe Centre for Alzheimer’s research and education society.
It brings together local hockey players and NHL heroes.
The tournament takes place in Calgary this April and will feature NHL legends like Lanny MacDonald, Darryl Sittler and Marty McSorley.
Darryl Sittler jokingly said that these days, he and other NHL alumni talk more about grand kids, high blood pressure and pain medicine instead of the old hockey stories from back in the day.
Lanny McDonald says now that they no longer play in the NHL, they can make friends with players they use to have animosity with on the ice.
“We never talked to those guys back in the day. And now you see Marty McSorley and see what a cool guy he is,’ McDonald said. “Now there’s an even greater purpose when you see where the money is going and you can actually put your hand on it.”
“To be able to come back together, hangout together and know you’re making a difference – this is the coolest event period,” McDonald said.
Organizers say there are 22 teams registered so far but they’re hoping for 24.
Over the past four years, the hockey tournament has raised a net amount of $1.5 million that has gone towards Alzheimer’s research, patient care and caregiver support.
Organizers say it’s a disease that impacts tens of thousands of people in Alberta.
“Approximately 40,000 and within the next five years we’ll get about 100,000 with the aging demographic, its going through the roof. It’s not just a seniors disease its affecting all sorts of people in different walks of life, different ages of life, so the amount of money that are going to be needed to care for this generation is going to be significant,” Allen Klassen, from the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S society says.
A “Gordie Howe Centre for Dementia Care” is being built as a part of the new Manor Village at Fish Creek Park. The centre plans to also help those caring for people with dementia or Alzheimers. Organizers say 50% of those caregivers pass away before the patient.
“If you have somebody that you know that has dementia of some kind, it’s pretty devastating. For anyone trying to take care of them, it’s very difficult,” Darryl Sittler said.
“We’re all getting older and some of us are going to get dementia. We all know that. Some of us have family members that have it. The whole event is really fun and a great way to raise funds,” Sittler said.
Funds raised by C.A..R.E.S. will support caregiver/patient day support programs offered by the centre.
Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. is a registered not-for-profit society.
Howe played 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings from 1946-1971, winning four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies and six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer. He also played in the World Hockey Association and was a member of the Hartford Whalers when they merged with the NHL in 1979.