Through the door I went. A nurse promptly greeted me, and led me into a room with comfortable chairs and a flat screen television with the Today show playing on it. The wood floor and simplicity of the building surprised me. Last year I’d met with a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles to consider a stem cell treatment using my own adipose (fat) tissue, and I felt uncomfortable with the flashy lobby furniture, rude staff, and pretentious patients assessing my worth, as they surveyed me from head to foot. In contrast this basic clinic in Trinidad was quiet, clean, and the friendly nurses immediately made me feel at ease.
“We need to get a blood sample,” said the kind nurse. I’ve had roughly sixty blood tests, since I became a person with kidney failure in June of two thousand eleven. But for a moment I had to look away, and take a few deep breaths as the nurse held the large needled syringe used to get the pre-treatment sample. The smaller butterfly needles weren’t available. It’s not the prick of the needle that bothered me; it was seeing the size of the needle. She did an excellent job of collecting the sample, and then placing some of my blood into each testing tube for the ISO certified laboratory. My blood pressure was taken, and I sipped on my iced green tea, as I looked around at the basic surroundings.
Dr. K, as I’ll call her to respect her privacy, came out to lead me back to the consultation room. She willingly explained her medical background as a doctor. She had completed a rotation in oncology in London, followed by working in hospitals in intensive care and anesthesiology. When the clinic opened earlier this year, she was approached as a thriving doctor at a family practice. Traditionally trained, Dr. K was skeptical about the clinic and the stem cell treatment being offered, when she was contacted by one of the co-owners. After observing for six months, reviewing details with the staff geneticist, and seeing the amazing results, she decided to leave her practice to join the clinic and shift her career path.
The procedure was explained to me in detail: an intravenous line would be placed in a peripheral blood vein in my arm. I would be given some blood thinning medication (dextrose-based) to prevent clotting, and my blood pressure would be monitored closely the entire time by Dr. K and the nurses. It would all take up to four hours, and they would attempt to collect as many stem cells as possible. A potential change in the treatment might happen, if the vein in my arm didn’t work well. Then a line would be put into one of my legs. While I was nervous about that being a possibility, it was too late to turn back now.
Dr. K took a detailed medical history, and had already reviewed all my lab reports and doctors’ summaries, which I had sent earlier from home. An EKG was done to check the health of my heart, and Dr. K conducted my physical exam. She remarked that I am the healthiest dialysis patient she’s ever seen, and that my heart is extremely healthy and strong as well. I was not rushed through the comprehensive evaluation, and she answered all of my questions without hesitation.
Leaving the clinic, I discussed everything with my boyfriend, who insisted on joining me for my medical adventure, and had the funds and time to go. The most wonderful patient case that Dr. K had mentioned (without personal information being revealed) was the one about a quadriplegic, who started walking after a stem cell treatment at the same clinic. Imagine how many military veterans could be helped by stem cell medicine. “May my results be as wonderful”, I thought as the taxi transported us back to the hotel.
It was Tuesday night, and I couldn’t believe I would receive my treatment the next morning. I had a few brief moments and thoughts of worry and concern about any risk, which might be involved in this type of procedure. But, then again, everything medical carries risk. My strong intuition and how things had happened for me in the last year pointed towards this treatment, like lights guiding an airplane to its landing. I knew it was the right choice for me.
Falling asleep at the hotel, I steered my thoughts to having an easy, painless and effective treatment. I said a quiet prayer (one of many) asking for assistance so that my treatment would go well. I prayed for recovery and successful results. I visualized the treatment happening without pain, and with the doctor harvesting as many of my stem cells as possible.
Exhausted from very little sleep, the time change, and the newness of it all, I fell asleep. Tomorrow, Wednesday, would be the BIG DAY. May the angels watch over and safeguard me.