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Excerpt from "This is How I Save My Life: Embryonic Stem Cells, Indian Adventures, Self Healing"

by Amy B. Scher


I am lying face down in a hunter green gown (not a flattering color for me) on a long, skinny table that feels like it was made for a tall, slender man. Huge round lights that hang from the ceiling are glowing on my body. A heater blows warmth in my face and three operating-theater techs are by my side. Dr. Ashish comes in with scrubs and a full mask covering most of his face. I can still see his smiling expressions through it. He’s completely relaxed as always, but looks even more so since he’s not in his usual fancy work attire. He asks me if I’m nervous and I return his question with a genuinely calm, “Not at all.” They take my blood pressure and see I am not lying. In fact, some people would be dizzy having blood pressure that low.

Within minutes, it’s time for the procedure. My Old Navy brightly colored fleece pajama pants under my gown are pulled down, mid-butt. The table is tilted so my head and upper torso are tipped forward and it now feels more like a balancing beam than a place to rest. I confirm with Dr. Ashish that I won’t slide forward—and off. He laughs and reassures me. I wonder if I’m the only one worried about this. The sister’s hand is on my butt and I tell myself, if she had to, she could catch me by one cheek if I should slip.

Dr. Ashish feels intently for the right spot in my spine. He injects a local anesthetic at my tailbone, at what feels like about an inch from the tip. It hurts, but I know it will be over soon. A few minutes go by and the anesthesia has set in. I soon start to feel an intense, deep ache and awkward pulling. I accidentally wince and Dr. Ashish tells me he is pushing the first syringe full of stem cells in. I can’t see his hand, but his arm is steady like an iron rod. I breathe deeply, eyes closed while I try to inhale the new life into me. I literally feel the stem cells being infused.

A heavy sensation quickly coats my lower back. If I knew what it felt like to have an elephant sitting on me, this is what I think it would be. I wiggle my toes to console myself. I know nothing is wrong but the feeling is so strange that I want to check everything still works. A rising sensation works its way up my spine as the second syringe of stem cells is slowly injected. I imagine it like the red line in an old-fashioned thermometer heating up rapidly. But it soon stabilizes and holds still in one place, about halfway up my rib cage. I am giving Dr. Ashish a play-by-play of the happenings. My right leg and foot start to tingle as the second syringe-full is almost done being injected, and when it is, the needle is removed. When he hears my left leg is not feeling the same, the table is tipped to the left; and almost instantly I feel that side flood with equal sensations. I imagine my spinal cord coated with stem cells, thick like glue.

Gauze is placed in the injection area and I lay still until I am moved to a gurney and wheeled out of the operating theater. I am totally and completely overwhelmed with emotion as I pass through the double doors that lead to the elevator. I look up to see a Labor and Delivery sign and remember how this hospital started off as a fertility clinic. I have flashes of this same scene from when I had surgery to extract eggs from my ovaries during the process of donating them to an infertile couple. I feel like I have come full circle, and will never be the same as before I entered that room.

I am transported by a sheet from my gurney by two men and placed face up on the bed in my room. The room is simply decorated (all white) and nothing like my bright blue Green Park hospital room. Kids are playing on the playground at the school next door. I hear them laughing louder than the traffic chaos and can’t help but smile. The TV is small and far away from the bed. I don’t bother turning it on. Bricks prop up the bottom of the bed, with my head lowered toward the floor. This specific procedure was done to help empower my lower body. However, some of the stem cells will travel upwards with the help of gravity, which is the reason for this odd and oh-so-uncomfortable position. I will have to stay like this for five hours. Within one hour, I have to pee and my appetite is raging. Go figure.

Dr. Shroff comes to see me, and it’s so nice to have company. She always has so many interesting things to say and I always have enough questions to keep up. She brought me my two brain scan copies in folders—the one from January and then the recent one. Reading the report out loud, we get excited all over again about the progress. She leaves them on the counter for me to take when I leave to go back to the Green Park hospital. Dr. Ashish stops by to make sure I’m doing okay and after a while, they are off to see other patients.

The phone rings and I’m startled, but happy to have a caller, even if it’s just going to be the reception telling me something totally unimportant. It’s my dad (at a ridiculous hour in California) but they want to make sure all is well. And aside from the fact that I’m starving and banned from getting up to use the bathroom, everything is great. He begins to congratulate me that the lesion in the left side of my brain is gone, but I cut him off at the half-point in his sentence. “What?!” I say. “Yeah, I talked to Dr. Shroff and she said it’s gone,” he replies confidently. I quickly correct him. “Dad, it’s improved, but not gone.” He is sure Dr. Shroff used the word “gone.” I reach up behind me without moving my spine and grab the folders. I pull out the pictures from both sets and compare, holding them up in the air above my head. I think I may have screamed. She was right—I can’t see one of the lesions on the newer scan that was there on the first one, just one-month prior.

When I get off the phone with my dad, I ask a hospital attendant to have Dr. Shroff call me. She does within minutes and I tell her what just happened. She chuckles and says, “Ohhh, so you looked at the scans,” in her playful tone. Maybe it was supposed to be a surprise, although I have become so detached from test results because I can intuitively and physically tell I am better, that I’m not sure I would have ever looked. I tease her about the cruelty in finding out such great news when I can’t get up and be excited. We agree that soon I’ll do a dance and celebrate.

Five hours go by s-l-o-w-l-y, but then I am allowed to turn on my side for an hour. When I turn (head still can’t be raised), I try to funnel a very messy, saucy, Indian lunch into my mouth. I fail miserably with half ending up between my lips and the bed. When it’s time to sit up, I’m beyond grateful. If I’m not dizzy, I can go by car to “my” hospital soon. But alas, I’m dizzy when I try. It takes some time for my head to get used to the blood being distributed throughout the rest of my body because of the horizontal position I’ve been in.

I’m back in Green Park after dark. My back aches and no position I choose is comfortable. It takes me seemingly forever to fall asleep as I have a serious case of the heebie jeebies. I know it’s a strange phrase but I can’t explain this muscle tightening, creepy crawly feeling any better way. It used to happen when I got my immunoglobulin infusions years ago, because of the stimulation (in a good way) to my nervous system, which then affects the muscles. Lately this phenomenon has come back in waves. My baby stem cells are working extra hard. Eventually it settles down and I fall into a deep slumber.

Amy B. Scher is the author of This is How I Save My Life – A True Story of Embryonic Stem Cells, Indian Adventures, and Ultimate Self-Healing (January 2013). With a history of chronic illness, Amy set out to discover the foundation of healing. She is an expert in mind-body-spirit healing with offices in Los Angeles and Monterey, California. She uses energy therapy techniques to help those with chronic illness and those in need of emotional healing to identify, release and move on. Amy is an Ordained Minister of Holistic Healing. She is a frequent contributor to healthcare blogs and has presented to groups including the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Amy lives by the self-created motto: “When life kicks your ass, kick back.” www.HowISaveMyLife.com

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