Friday, August 14, 2009

Post #5 – Applying for Treatment at XCell – And Other Details

Once the decision was made to pursue stem cell therapy at the XCell Center in Cologne, Germany, I followed the application process outlined on the XCell website
1. In early April of 2009 I submitted XCell’s online Inquiry Form to determine if my condition is one the diseases the clinic treats. MSA is not specifically listed as an included disease on their web site but does receive clinic recognition.
2. After receiving preliminary approval, I completed a more detailed online Medical Information Form
3. In mid-April I received a phone call from XCell’s North American representative requesting faxed copies of medical reports and MRI summaries for review by XCell’s medical panel. The representative was very helpful and able to answer all my questions. He has continued to be my principal contact at XCell.
4. A week later I received an e-mail from XCell informing I had been approved for stem cell treatment
5. I sent an e-mail confirming my intention to undergo the procedure
6. Finally, I received a September appointment for bone marrow extraction and lumbar puncture implantation. I chose September for my convenience; I’m sure I could have scheduled an earlier date.
Note: Steps 1-6 were completed in less than 30 days

Projected Expenses:
$10,500 (7545 Euros) for XCell Center treatment costs. Exact dollar amount will fluctuate slightly based on the daily exchange rate. No money was requested upfront – payment in full (in Euros) is expected on first treatment day.
• Fran & I are using the last of my Delta frequent flier miles accumulated during several years of business travel. The average roundtrip airfare per person between the US and Germany from most East Coast cities is approximately $800. There are less expensive flights available but they seem to involve more stopovers. Flight time from Atlanta to Germany is about 9 hours. We found flying into Dusseldorf (30 minutes to Cologne by train) rather than directly into Cologne offered more convenient flights with fewer stopovers. Flying into Frankfurt and taking a high-speed train to Cologne is another, lower cost alternative. I certainly recommend “shopping around” for the best travel plans.
$1300 - Cologne hotel accommodations (6 nights – double occupancy). We chose the Hotel Lindner, a modest-cost hotel within walking distance of Cologne’s railway station and tourist district. We also chose to stay six nights rather than five – the minimum suggested by XCell - just to be on the safe side should there be any medical complications.
$100 - daily per person for meals. We understand meal costs are high in Cologne
$60 – two roundtrip train fares between Dusseldorf and Cologne
$50 – two roundtrip taxi fares between hotel and clinic
$50 – daily per person sightseeing costs
$50 – daily per person miscellaneous expenses
$125 – per person Passport w/ photo fee

Total Related Expense
$13,200 Estimated for Steve
$ 1,355 Estimated for Fran
$14,555 Estimated Total
(Remember – this total does not include airfare)

A Few Other Random Observations

• If you intend to use your cell phone in Germany, be sure it has the technology to make and receive calls to/from Europe. Also, rather than paying a hefty per-call charge, check if your carrier offers a special international calling feature which makes each call much more economical. These plans can often be activated for short terms, such as monthly.

• The XCell Center accepts three forms of payment: cash (in Euros), travelers checks (in Euros), and major credit cards. After discovering XCell placed a 196 Euro surcharge on credit card use, I chose the travelers check option. My local bank needs just a day or two to amass the amount of checks I need. The largest travelers check available in Euros is 200 – which means I’ll have to prepare over 50 individual checks

• And finally, remember Germany operates on a different power system requiring converters and adapters if you bring along any electronics – like computers or cell phone chargers

This will probably be my last formal entry until just before the trip to Germany commences on September 13th I’ve tried to discuss everything involved in the decision process of seeking stem cell therapy to combat MSA. If there is anything you would like to add to this discussion or questions you’d like to ask – please don’t hesitate. Thanks again for all your support and hopefully I’ll soon be able to report substantial progress in MY MSA JOURNEY.


  1. When my mother inlaw went I believe the XCell Center picked her up at the airport and drove her to and from her hotel each day. This may be something you should ask your contact about before you leave to save a little bit of money.

  2. Steve and Fran, I so wish I could contribute some money for your trip and medical. My eyes fill up every time I read your blog. God bless you both. I send you both a big hug. Love, Doreen