Former Hollywood stuntman turns to the web for help
BY JACQUELINE TORTORELLO email@example.com August 28, 2014 4:38PM
Len Richard, of Matteson, IL., is a former Hollywood stuntman. Richard has worked movies such as Barber Shop and Transformers. He is now trying to raise money so he can go to Mexico in search of a stem cell transplant. | John Smierciak/For Sun-Times Me
Updated: September 3, 2014 2:10AM
Len Richard, a semiretired Hollywood stuntman, is praying for a cure he believes is possible through an infusion of fresh stem cells.
Richard, 41, of Matteson, will head to Mexico later this year to receive an infusion of 50 million stem cells. Through the care of Dr. Michael Hino at Ensenada Health and Wellness Center, he’s hoping to reverse congenital hepatic fibrosis and have his liver functions returned.
Despite legal concerns and the inherent risks of excessive cell growth and the development of tumors, Richard will head to Mexico after he raises enough money for surgery.
“The last thing I want is someone else’s organs in my body,” Richard said. “There are other ways of doing it, and stem cell therapy is something I want to try.”
Richard has been unable to work, but he’s trying to muster online donors to help him pay for the medical procedure. The procedure costs $6,000 and a 10-day stay in a hotel will cost about $2,000, a total of $8,000.
He has an online fundraiser set up on www.youcaring.com/stemcell, with a goal of $7,000.
Since 2007 Richard has been battling diabetes, weight loss, vision problems and exhaustion. Doctors at Rush University Medical Center diagnosed him with congenital hepatic fibrosis, an inherited disease that inhibits blood flow in the liver.
“I’ve been stable, but I’m not out of the hot water,” Richard said.
In 2010, he was so sick, he moved back to Illinois to live with family. Since then he has improved his health with nutritional supplements and a plant-based diet.
According to doctors at Rush University Hospital, he no longer needs a liver transplant.
“He doesn’t go through this by himself, we go through it too,” said Leo Richard, Richard’s father.
Hino says a stem cell infusion will improve Richard’s health.
“If a patient does not qualify for an organ transplant, then the next best thing is to rejuvenate the organ with stem cell infusions,” Hino said.
Stem cells work as master cells, or “blank slates” that can repair, reprogram and regenerate cells that have already been destroyed by disease, according to the FDA.
Controversy surrounds these therapies in the United States since opponents believe the destruction of an embryo also destroys a human life.
“Most treatments outside of the U.S. are frowned upon,” Hino said.
If Richard gets enough donations, he plans to pay it forward by giving the extra funds to someone else in need.
“If I’m ever able to, I’d like to sponsor someone else’s surgery,” Richard said.
In October, Richard is planning to head back to California with or without his stem cell treatment. While his health prohibits him from returning to life as a stuntman, he plans to pursue an apprenticeship in film, commercial and TV editing.