Starr undergoing stem-cell treatments

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers great Bart Starr smiles as he looks at the crowd before alumni day introductions at Lambeau Field in September 2013.

Bart Starr's family announced Wednesday that the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback underwent the first of two stem-cell treatments Friday.

Starr, 81, had two strokes, seizures and a heart attack over a week's time in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., in early September. His son, Bart Starr Jr., acknowledged at a December Rawhide event in Green Bay that his father's progress has been slow.

According to the family, Starr recently was accepted into the clinical-trial basis after applying for the treatments several months ago.

"While we welcome everyone's interest and support of Bart's health, at this time, we'd like to allow him a chance to fully participate in the clinical trial and let the results, if any, to speak for themselves. At an appropriate time in the future, our family looks forward to sharing the details of Bart's participation in this most important clinical exploration of what role stem cells may play in the treatment of stroke. Until then, we continue to thank you for all of your love and prayers," the family said in a statement.

Starr's wife, Cherry, reiterated Starr Jr.'s assessment in a January interview with the Arizona Republic, saying Starr "could not walk or sit up unassisted" when he first left the hospital. At the time, he was walking with the assistance of a walker and had regained about 10 of the 20 pounds he'd lost.

She also added that: "I don't know how much recovery he can make with his cognitive ability."

Former Packers guard Jerry Kramer told reporters in April that he had forwarded Cherry and Starr Jr. materials about the use of stem-cell therapy to treat stroke victims.

Detroit Red Wings icon Gordie Howe used such treatment during his recovery from a stroke he suffered last October. Howe, who turned 87 in March, underwent the procedure at Novastem's Clinica Santa Clarita in Tijuana, Mexico, and his family has reported they've seen positive results since he started treatment.

"I sent Bart Jr. and Cherry all the information I could find on that clinic," Kramer said at the time. "Bart was having trouble walking. He was having trouble talking. I haven't talked to Cherry for three or four weeks, but the last time I talked to her, he was home and he had gone outside by himself, and he walked around the patio by himself, and they were getting ready to go for a ride.

"So that was very encouraging and very hopeful. But he's having a tough time."

Wednesday's statement didn't reference Starr's current condition, but mentioned he has a long-term goal in mind of returning for a Packers game. Prior to his stroke, there were preliminary plans in place to have Starr, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre reunite for a game at Lambeau Field.

"Your support has given us much strength over the past nine months," the release said. "Bart joins me in sending our love and appreciation to all our special friends and fans. We are working hard toward the one goal he most cherishes: a return to Green Bay for a Packers game."

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