October 30, 2008

OMG . . . is that long needle going into me?!

It's Thursday night.  The first 4 days have gone pretty well here in San Jose.

My flight on Saturday night was good, 5.5 hours direct from LAX.  The flight was full, but not a ton of Americans on board.  The woman sitting next to me was from Guatemala.  She and her husband were on their way home from a wedding in the US.  She spoke no English, but just had to show me pictures of the event :)

I slept most of the trip.  Sat in the front row of coach and had a ton of legroom, so that worked out well.

A driver was at the airport to pick me up Sunday morning.  His name is Willie.  He gave me a notebook from the clinic with my schedule.  The clinic provides all transportation to and from treatments the entire time.  I checked into the hotel and went grocery shopping on Sunday.

Monday morning was my first appointment at the ICM clinic.  The clinic is
just around the corner from the hotel, but they insist on driving patients even though it is so close.  I met one of the doctors and the director of the clinic.  They drew 10 vials of blood, 8 that will be used when the infuse cells into me.  They are going to give me a tour of the lab before I go home.

Monday afternoon I had my first physical therapy session at CIMA Hospital about 5 miles down the road.  The rest of my treatments and physical therapy will be at the hospital, not the clinic around the corner.

Tuesday I had physical therapy again.  I like my physical therapist. Her name is Jennifer.   She said I am doing pretty well because I already swim and do yoga.  My strength is good, but my balance sucks, so that is what we are working on mostly.  She does work my butt off, but I feel pretty good when I am done.   I won't go back to physical therapy now until next Tuesday.

I also met with the plastic surgeon, Dr. Miguel Alfaro Davila, who performed the mini lipo suction to extract some fat cells.  He is a very distinguished gentleman, comfortable to talk to and easy to understand.  He gave me his home phone and said everyone in his household (including his maid) speaks English, so don't hesitate to call if there are any problems after surgery, but he didn't anticipate any.

Yesterday was the BIG day.

I checked into the hospital at 6:30 am.  The mini lipo procedure was at 8:00 am under general anesthesia.  When I first got the information from ICM about the stem cell treatment and the process and all that it entailed, I knew that I was going to have what they call a "MINI LIPO SUCTION" to extract some of my own stem cells from my adipose tissue.  In my mind I thought they could do that with a syringe or something.  I thought wrong.  It was real surgery with consent forms and hospital gowns and operating room lights and monitors and everything that goes with a general surgery.  I was a little nervous to say the least as I was wheeled into the stark, cold operating room.  Dr. Davila and the other doctors in the room comforted me as they prepared me for surgery.  Dr. Davila was singing as if he had been trained in the opera.  The anesthesiologist gave me what he jokingly called "pina colada" and in just a few short moments I was fast asleep.

They made 3 small incisions in my lower abdomen.  I am a little bruised and sore, but I think my tummy may be a little flatter :)  Who knew!

Then at 2:30 pm I was back to the hospital for my first spinal injection of stem cells.  They took me to the same recovery area I had just left just hours before.  I had to change into a green hospital gown once again.  There was a TV in the upper corner of the room showing "Gilmore Girls".  There were 2 different doctors who came into the room as well as a nurse.  One of the doctors was from ICM.  I can't recall her name, but she was in the operating room during the mini lipo surgery.  The doctor who was going to inject the stem cells explained the intrathecal injection process.  Basically he swabbed my back with something, then had to wait for it to dry completely, then injected some anesthesia.  I rolled my back to make it easier for him to access my spinal cord.  The second stem was inserting the needle that would deliver the stem cells.  Once the doctor saw spinal fluid, he then confirmed my name on the vial of stem cells and proceeded with the injection.  Immediately after, I was to lay flat for about 15 minutes.

Just a little burning, not too painful, but I do need to lay flat for no less than 4 hours after the injection to minimize headaches, so that's just what I did after returning to the hotel.

This morning when I woke up I felt like I had a long night of drinking - hehehaha.  My head feels a little like I have a hangover, so we all know I can handle this :)

Today I rest and Friday I have my second injection.  During the injections, I will be having both a spinal injection as well as an iv injection into my bloodstream.

I'm extremely impressed so far with the level of treatment and care.

Costa Rica is beautiful.  I love the weather even with the occasional showers.  The days are nice and the evenings cool.  It is so green.  I don't have any treatments on the weekends, so we will probably go on a few tours.  I want to see one of the flowing volcanoes.

I'm using my Spanish more than I thought I would.  Being somewhat multilingual is making it easier when I go to the store or order food or ask for a taxi.  The hotel wanted to charge an 8% fee to exchange money, so I waited to go to the bank on Monday.  $1.00 Dollar is 555.57 Colons.  I've mastered the money exchange already.  Not fantastically cheap here, but not terribly expensive either.  I'm sure that has some to do with our weak dollar right now.

I'll update more soon . . .  Thanks for all the words of encouragement and support.
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