Lazarus pill – the magic continues

2012-09-15 16:29

Sienie Viljoen would have had no idea 13 years ago that by giving her comatose son a tablet to make him rest better, she’d be initiating a miracle treatment for patients with brain injuries.

City Press reported last month on the remarkable reawakening of Louis Viljoen, who stunned his mother when he emerged from a five-year coma after she gave him a Stilnox sleeping tablet.

After reading that report, Nomfundo Nqinana insisted that her husband’s sceptical doctors give him a tablet a day.

Five days later, he emerged from his seven-year coma, asking for his son.

Now it appears that the pill not only helps those with traumatic brain injuries, but other conditions as well.

A few weeks ago, City Press reported on Dr Cival Mills, who suffers from locked-in syndrome after a crippling brainstem stroke he suffered following a car accident.

He also read the report on the Lazarus pill and turned to Sienie Viljoen’s general practitioner, Dr Wally Nel, for advice on using Stilnox.

He was given half a tablet and after about 40 minutes, spoke for the first time in 11 years.

“Dis ‘n voorreg om te kan praat (It’s a privilege to be able to speak),” he said in a clear voice.

The pill is now helping Mills a great deal to become more focused and to enable him to work for longer without tiring as easily.

“We have long suspected that the pill could be effective for other brain-related conditions as well,” said Professor Ralf Clauss, a neurologist who ­lectured at Medunsa before ­emigrating to the UK.

He treated Louis Viljoen after he woke from his coma and, ­together with Nel, researched Stilnox’s effects on brain ­injuries.

This week, Nel told City Press he has had remarkable success with a patient who suffers from motor-neuron disease.

Mossie Mostert was diagnosed with the same fatal disease as rugby star Joost van der Westhuizen.

Nel has been treating him with Stilnox for the last three months, and he is now more mobile and has his sense of humour back.

“Not only has taking the pill improved his condition, it also seems the degenerative effect of the condition has been halted. It is unheard of,” said Nel.

Clauss and Nel believe that the pill works by waking up dormant brain tissue.

Not all cells die off in an area where an injury occurs. Some cells become dormant and Stilnox somehow reactivates them, improving brain function.

“The pill works even decades after an injury”, says Clauss, adding that he and Nel have been studying the pill’s effects on patients with cerebral palsy with remarkable results.

Stilnox also appears to work on those with paralysis. Nel treated swimmer Ryk Neethling’s sister Elsje with the pill. She had childhood cancer and one of her legs was paralysed.

“She can now walk without crutches,” he says.

Another who read the City Press report was a paraplegic man from Pretoria North who can now move his legs slightly whenever he takes Stilnox.

Both Nel and Clauss warn, however, that much research still needs to be done on the pill’s effects.

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