Video shows Gordie Howe's miraculous recovery

Family says stem cell treatment brought Mr. Hockey back to life

Gordie Howe is known around the world simply as "Mr. Hockey."

He's a legend on the ice and a hero in the hearts of many. The former Detroit Red Wings great is immortalized at Joe Louis Arena.

It's Howe's ability to dream and his fighting spirit that helped him overcome his biggest challenge: a battle off the ice which almost ended his life.

"I wrote his eulogy. We were making his funeral arrangements and didn't have a whole lot of hope for him," said Gordie's son, Dr. Murray Howe.

Murray thought his father's life was over. A stroke late last year caused a big setback.

"It was to the point where even if you pounded on his chest there would be no response from him," said Murray.

The one-time hockey great appeared lifeless. He was unable to communicate.

"His eyes were open but there was just kind of nothing there," said Murray.

As family members scrambled to make funeral arrangements, one phone call changed everything.

"He just said that they had a stem cell company," said Murray.

Doctors Roger and Maynard Howe, who have no relation to Gordie but are huge hockey fans, thought their adult stem cell treatment could bring Mr. Hockey back to life.

"One of our employees, Dave McGuigan who is our vice president, had worked originally for the Detroit Red Wings and so he knew the Howe family," said Dr. Roger Howe, of Stemedica. "So we approached Dave one day and asked him if he could reach out to the family and find out if they might be interested in having Gordie enrolled in an approved clinical trial where he could be treated for his stroke condition with Stemedica cells."

Murray said the family discussed it together.

"This is definitely something we should consider, you know, for our dad, really because at this point we have nothing to lose," he said.

It required flying an almost lifeless Gordie Howe from his daughter's house in Texas to San Diego. Then he had to travel to Mexico, where the clinical trial already was underway. Just hours after the stem cells were injected, Gordie showed a new sign of life.

"I said, 'Dad, you can't walk,' and he said, 'The hell I can't,'" said Murray.

Gordie, who was nearly paralyzed just hours earlier, began to walk.

"It was really funny. He was like, 'Let's go,' you know, 'I'm outta here.' He didn't even want the wheelchair when he left. I said, 'Dad, you gotta be in the wheelchair, we don't want you to fall on the way out,'" said Murray.

He started walking and hasn't stopped. Video recently shot by the Howe family shows Gordie playing floor hockey with his grandson.

The past few months have been an emotional rollercoaster for all of Gordie's children. However, now they're just thankful to have their dad back.

"I feel like this is God's answer: 'You guys want a miracle? I'll give you a miracle,'" said Murray.

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About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.