This morning we were picked up at 8:30am and taken to the Stem Cell Institute in an office building in a different part of Panama City. We were taken upstairs and entered their office area. The waiting room was very small and had several other patients and their caregivers (person traveling with the patient). We were greeted warmly and Eric was given a bunch of forms to fill out. While filling them out, we started chatting with one man there who had been welcomed back as a returning patient. He looked "normal" so we were curious where he started. He stated he had MS with 40 legions on his brain and several on his spinal cord. When he started this process, his back was in a lot of pain and he was losing his short term memory. He also happened to be a physician and feels strongly that regenerative medicine is the wave of the future and decided to come to the Stem Cell Institute. After his first injection, his back pain was dramatically less and the pain was totally gone within two weeks. His other symptoms were reduced as well. His statements match other research that we have seen that stem cell injections greatly reduce the symptoms associated with MS.
Once Eric finished the paperwork, it was time to meet with the doctor for a high level medical overview and blood draw. We left the waiting area and were lead into a very small office. Eric quickly noticed that the layouts of their furniture would not pass OSHA requirements in the US. So one doctor began asking Eric basic questions about his injury while another casually got him ready for his blood draw. They brought out roughly 15 vials to fill. Wow! It was a good technique to distract a patient with questions and not have them focus on how much blood is being taken, not that Eric has an issue with needles.
When it was our turn for questions we asked what they did with all of the blood vials. Some is used to run a variety of medical tests. The other is used for the stem cell injections. The blood is put in a centrafuge to separate it and then the stem cells are added into your own blood for the injection. That is actually reassuring. We asked about Eric's bone marrow removal. Eric's bone marrow removal will not occur until next week. The bone marrow stem cells will be injected the last week because they need several weeks to test it and put it through quality control procedures. We asked about Eric's chances of improvement. They stated they have no measurable data to use for his type of injury and that every patient's reaction to the procedures is different. They were very encouraged that he was coming to the clinic so close to the time of the injury and they stated that was very positive. So bottom line, they could not give us an answer, not that we really expected they would.
Overall it was an encouraging experience. Between the knowledge of the physicians and the extremely detailed coordination with patient transportation and information, they appear to know what they are doing. We are encouraged but anxious to get started with the injections to see what results Eric will see.
On Tuesday Eric is first physical therapy session, then Wednesday is his first injection.