Dear Steemsters and Steemstresses:
Those of you who read part one (https://steemit.com/health/@twiceuponatime/report-from-the-bleeding-edge-part-one) know that I, @twiceuponatime, am @onceuponatime's feistier alter ego - the one who isn't quite as shy about letting you know that I have been around the block a couple of times.
Ah, German beer (another one of the reasons it has taken me two months to do Part Two - ie. a trip to Germany):
I know that it's been couple of months since I promised this, Part Two of my Report from the Bleeding Edge,
but hey, give a guy a break. Do you have any idea where I've been these last two months? Everywhere from my stem cell operation in Vancouver to Oktoberfest in Munich to burying my mother near Toronto to Steemfest in Amsterdam.
Terrace to Vancouver to Terrace to Vancouver to Terrace to Vancouver to Toronto to Milan to Ticino to Munich to Badenweiler to Ticino to Milan to Toronto to Vancouver to Terrace to Vancouver to Toronto to St. Catherine's to Toronto to Vancouver back to Terrace then to Vancouver, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Vancouver, and here I am, back in Terrace!
A little bit of time to catch up on several thousand messages, recover from the time zone changes, do some laundries, make some arrangements before the first snow hits, and now, to write this post.
Where I left off my previous Report was that,
practically crippled and barely able to walk very far at all due to a deteriorating left hip, I had just learned from a local chiropractor that there was now stem cell therapy available in Vancouver (a mere two hour flight from where I live). Cheaper than that available in Florida, and apparently using upgraded techniques from when my friend @steem-samiam and her husband had undergone the procedure less than two years previously.
I talked on several occasions to the clinic in Vancouver and ascertained that the price would be steep, but within my means - coming in at $8,500 CDN dollars (which is about $6,375US). I did have some trepidation that my hip condition would prove too severe for stem cell therapy to be effective. Discussing this with the clinic, they said I should get x-rays done, and I did. (That's the extra Terrace-Vancouver-Terrace in the list above). Here is the report:
"PELVIS AND BOTH HIPS
Severe narrowing of the left hip joint space is present with associated osteophytes at the joint space margins and buttressing of the femoral neck, findings representing severe osteoarthritis. Additionally, the configuration of the femoral head - neck suggests the possibility of an old remote slipped capital femoral epiphysis.
Left protrusio acetabulum is noted, which may be post traumatic or developmental.
The right hip and both SI joints are unremarkable.
No other abnormality is noted.
Severe left hip osteoarthritis and associated protrusio acetabulum. "
The stem cell clinic in Vancouver would not give an opinion
as to whether the treatment would be effective in my case. They emphasized that it is "experimental" and it is classified, for regulatory purposes, as "patient funded research". To make a long story short, I decided to go ahead with the procedure since I was in constant pain and my mobility was severely restricted. I could walk only short distances, and that painfully. I was hoping for enough improvement to make my upcoming trips to Bits n' Pretzels and Steemfest more doable and enjoyable.
The clinic required half the payment upon making the appointment and the other half at the time of the operation. I sent them a bank draft for $4250 (here on the Bleeding Edge we don't use credit cards, lol) and made my appointment for September 9th. I booked a round trip ticket to Vancouver for Sept. 8th return Sept. 10th and booked two nights at the Pacific Gateway Hotel, right on the waterfront.
coming in to Vancouver from Terrace
So, arriving in Vancouver,
I spent a nervous night in my hotel room, steeming, and trying not to think about some giant needle going into my hip the next day.
In the morning I took a cab to the clinic, which was the whole 3rd floor of a large medical building. (There was a really upscale medical marijuana clinic and dispensary on the ground floor. That was encouraging!).
I took the elevator to the fourth floor, walked into the stem cell clinic, and the receptionist offered me a choice of cold or room temperature bottled water with the clinic's own label (hey, classy joint eh?), and had me sit down and start filling out paperwork.
I began to feel just a little strange,
because it became obvious that this was definitely mainly a plastic surgery clinic, and I never thought that I would find myself in such a place. Absolutely gorgeous women kept transiting the waiting area from other parts of the complex as they left the clinic. I began wondering what parts of their physical presence were natural and what parts were the surgeons' creations. It was all a little surreal.
Next I was taken into a little side office and I met some nurses,
had my blood pressure taken, then met the doctor who owned the clinic and I had a chat with him. Soon two assistants took me out to the long hallway and videotaped my walking and stature as it was pre the day's operation. This was presumably for legal reasons since this stem cell therapy is being billed as research (Patient Funded Research). I was informed that I agreed to follow up phone interviews at certain periods like one week, one month etc. Then I was taken back to the small interview room and the orthopedic surgeon who would be doing the honors came to introduce himself. I stayed in that room for quite a long time, nurses monitoring my blood pressure every few minutes.
Finally, a nurse led me down another, inner, hallway and into an operating room.
I climbed aboard the operating table. Two nurses, (one from Shanghai and one from Beijing my curiosity soon ascertained), took turns trying to get a needle into a vein in my arm and then hand - but neither succeeded. (During one 2 or 3 year period of my mis-spent youth I was a raging junkie drug addict and managed to badly scar all the veins of my arms and hands. Since I had read William Burrough's "Naked Lunch" well before launching my short addiction career and knew exactly what to expect, there was no excuse for my foolishness - but that's for another story and future post from the Bleeding Edge). I suggested that the nurses try my ankle because I knew that I had some virgin veins down there. The surgeon agreed it was a good idea, but again the nurses failed - this time because veins on top of the ankles are very wiggly and jiggly. The surgeon then shooed away the nurses and took over and immediately was able to enter the needle into a vein on my ankle. That boosted my confidence level a degree or two! A demerol drip was attached and although I suppose it was taking effect I didn't really notice anything at first. By now there were three doctors, two nurses, two assistants, and me on the table - all in this tiny operating room.
To my utter surprise and consternation,
the surgeon told me that he was going to make his incisions on my back, rather than my abdomen, and then put whatever it was they put in the incisions and snake it around to the fat on either side of my abdomen. This meant, flat on my stomach, I couldn't see anything that was going on, a major freak-out. Things sure felt strange - kind of like an eggbeater whipping the tissue inside me, and then suctioning it out. Even though it wasn't painful, thankfully that strange and awkward feeling lasted only a few minutes. Soon I guess they had enough of my fat (I was kinda hoping they would take more, lol). Several people rushed out and down to a lab to process the stem cells from this fat. I rolled over back onto my back, and I asked for my cell phone and started surfing the web (and checking out steemit posts, lol) as I waited quite a while for someone to come back.
After maybe another hour or so, all three of the doctors came back in and started doing ultrasound on my hip area. They were mapping out the route for the needle to take into the damaged hip socket. They made marks on my skin for guidance later, during the actual procedure, I suppose. And then, another hour or so, and someone arrived with the stem cell solution. I was told that they were going to inject 80% of it into my hip and the other 20 % would be dripped into the needle in my ankle and thence into my bloodstream. Once again the room was really crowded, and I was definitely feeling the demerol, and boy, was I feeling vulnerable. One of the assistants came over to my right side and started talking to me and patting my arm - I presume to take my attention away from the surgeon and doctors who were now putting freezing into my upper thigh where the gargantuan needle would be entering. For some reason, they seemed to be having trouble with the ultrasound image on the laptop on a table on the opposite side of the bed from the woman patting my arm.
The doc on the left below is the surgeon, the middle doc is the owner of the clinic, and the doc on the right is the ultrasound guy.
The doctors were now,
all three, talking at the same time - something about they couldn't see the entry spot any more. The lady on my right side was also talking to me and asking questions and patting my arm - trying to keep my attention on her. The demerol was definitely kicking in big time. I began to panic and hallucinate because my drugged mind was torn between trying to listen to what the doctors were saying and what the assistant talking to me on my right side was saying. Thankfully, the doctors soon seemed to find what they were looking for, and a huge needle began to enter my upper thigh. I had very strange hallucinatory feelings of the needle's journey to my hip socket. I haven't mentioned yet, but I was quite surprised that the surgeon was going in through the front of my thigh, rather than the side. My pain has always been on the side of my hip and I always thought that that was where the hip joint was. I guess I'll need to look at an anatomical chart - but the surgeon assured me that from the front was the best way in.
I was beginning to freak (but can you see the steemit logo on the right arm of my shirt?)
Anyway, my panic seemed to subside. The doctors finished the injection into the joint and withdrew the needle. They soon packed up and left. The room cleared, and there were just the two nurses left to place the stem cell solution drip. I guess it took a half hour for that to empty, then I was left with just one nurse in the room monitoring me. After what seemed like another half hour, the surgeon, now dressed in his civvies, returned to say goodbye. I found out later that I was his only stem cell patient at the clinic that day. I had always assumed that they would wait to schedule the procedure until there was a whole slew of patients ready for the operation in order to maximize the doctors' and clinic's dollars per day. But no, it appears that I was the only star of the stem cell show that day!
I am going to cut this already too long report short now
by saying that, after another half hour or so I was free to leave the clinic. I was accompanied downstairs to the lobby and a taxicab called for me. I will give you a foreshadowing of the results by saying that I found it easier walking as I left the building to go to the cab then at any time in the last year. But only by maybe 10-20%, and this could be attributable to the freezing and demerol, could it not? I had been told that improvements might happen over time for the next three months, and that the clinic would be calling me at intervals to assess my results.
It was time for me to fly back up to Terrace and begin preparing for my September 22nd trip to Europe to attend the Bits n' Pretzels tech startup conference in Munich, Germany with the BlockPay crew. That would give my hip a real driving test! Please stay tuned for that and further developments in my upcoming Report from the Bleeding Edge (Part Three).
At the BlockPay booth at the Bits n' Pretzels Conference in Munich shortly after the procedure above, flying steemit's colors on my shirt and on my head):