Rylan heads to China soon

Five-year-old Rylan Johnstone will be heading to China in just two weeks with his mom and grandma, who hope the stem cell treatments he gets there might cure his blindness.

The family leaves on Sept. 23, bound for the Beike Biotech Centre in Guangzhou. During a three-week stay at the centre, Rylan will receive three packets of stem cells by intravenous. Then the family will wait to see what happens.

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Beike claims the stem cells help the body repair itself, resulting in cures for things like brain injuries, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and optic nerve damage in some patients.

"It varies. Some people don't see any real improvement while they're there. Other parents have said their kids suddenly start pointing at something, and they realize it's light," Rylan's grandma Alison Johnstone said. "And it's supposed to keep working for up to two years so it varies. I've heard people whose kids have excelled at everything but sight. So we don't have any expectations, and we know there's that 20 to 25 per cent that really won't see a lot so we have to be prepared for that. But in saying that, if we didn't try, we'd regret it."

The family started fundraising for the trip and stem cell treatments last September and with the help of local and off-Coast donations have been able to put away $36,000 - just enough to fund the trip.

"We are just so thankful. People have helped us from Texas, the Interior of B.C., across Canada, the Sunshine Coast, Powell River. You'd be shocked where we got money from. People just were so generous all across Canada," Johnstone said. "People who didn't have hardly any money still found $5, $10 to give to Rylan, which is just unbelievable. We'll never, ever forget this, and in some way we just have to pay it forward."

The family gained attention from Coast Reporter last year, and their story was also picked up by the current affairs show 16:9 on Global TV, giving the Johnstones a wider audience for their fundraiser dubbed Rylan's Fight For Sight.

And sight isn't the only thing the Johnstones are hoping for - they also hope the stem cell treatments will improve Rylan's mobility and speech and lessen his symptoms of autism.

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