It must sound like something out of science fiction book or movie: an autologous stem cell treatment to heal my kidneys enough to enjoy life without being attached to a dialysis machine. I imagine that people also thought that Galileo’s ideas about our solar system seemed hard to fathom at one time.
Finally today is here, and I’m on the first plane. Or, maybe I should say we are on the plane. Staying last night in Los Angeles was a good idea. Even with two alarms set, I woke up every hour because I was afraid I’d miss my plane. As if to make sure I would not, about 15 minutes after I got up at five o’clock a.m. the smoke detector started beeping every few minutes. What are the odds that in such a huge hotel, I’d end up in the room where the battery on the smoke detector runs out? There was no way I could’ve slept through it. A smile crept across my face, as I thought of the serendipity of it.
When I originally brought up the idea of traveling out of the country for a stem cell treatment, he was utterly opposed. As I continued my research and verification of the legitimacy of the clinic, I tried to ease his mind about my choice. Statistics, studies, research papers, and even the personal contact I established with a recovered patient (who’d had the same treatment) did nothing to sway him. We disagreed about it every time I mentioned it. He wasn’t the only one expressing doubts and concerns a few months ago. Some family and friends were finding it hard to believe that stem cells exist within a person’s own body, and that they can miraculously heal damaged tissue.
Chronic illness exacts a heavy toll on relationships, especially on the close relationships. There were many reasons, but they all added up to taking a break. We went our separate ways, and I planned to travel internationally alone. None of my friends or family could go with me. I understood. It would be expensive, and take about a week or more. Going on a medical trip with a person suffering from kidney failure could turn out to be a complete nightmare. I told everyone that I was willing to travel by myself, because it’s my life and my choice to do what I must to keep it. My intuition continued to tell me that everything would work out.
A month had passed and he’d reconsidered. Worry had taken over, and he didn’t want me going alone. He knew it wouldn’t be a relaxing vacation-type of trip. Anything could happen, and he agreed to be there to support me. He’d been to the ER with me a couple of times in the last five months, and had met several of my doctors at appointments. I wouldn’t have to use any of the money from fundraising for his travel expenses, and he could take the time to go. My family and friends exhaled with relief.
My initial evaluation was on Monday, the morning after my plane landed, and the warmth and humidity of being in a tropical place thrilled me as I left the coolness of the airport. While there are other stem cell medicine clinics throughout the world, most offer different and more invasive or less successful types of treatments (bone marrow and adipose tissue) for my difficult problem of kidney failure. The clinic I selected is one, which has been doing these specific treatments for a few years now. They have experience: quiet a valuable asset, and one that’s lacking in the United States. One of the co-owners, and the doctor who set up my appointments and treatment, partners with local business people to establish the clinics and carefully select the medical staff for each one.
The taxi drove us toward the clinic, through the capitol, roundabouts, and past the large park. It was simple, nothing fancy, and set back from the road on a small street. Passing through the white iron gate, we walked to the entrance and were buzzed in by a staff member. I’d made it. I was now at the clinic for my evaluation appointment. I couldn’t wait to see the machine, and the scientist in me was jumping up and down in anticipation. I thought, “WOW! I’ve come such a long way to be strong and healthy enough to travel. It’s really going to happen! I’m really going to get a stem cell treatment and help move the research forward.”
Thank you God, thank you Angels, thank you guides for getting me this far.