"Procedures," Part I

The most dramatic and involved way to receive stem cells here at Nu Tech Mediworld is by what is known as a "procedure." Procedures are different methods of injecting the stem cells into your spinal cord, spinal muscles, or neck area. These procedures are much more involved and are only done by Dr. Ashish Verma, who is the main doctor here besides Dr. Geeta Shroff herself.

I have toggled back and forth in my mind about discussing the different procedures I have experienced, mainly due to the fact that I don't want to scare anybody off. I can make them sound dramatic and scary, I could be vague and elusive or I could make them sound like 'no big deal.' I've asked other patients and have received mixed responses; many fear that telling about 'procedures' might shy people away from coming; others say, why not? It is a large part of the treatment here.

So, here is my disclaimer: I am just one person out of many who have received these various treatments; everyone here has different symptoms, ailments, pain tolerances, outlooks on life and healing, senses of humor, etc. No amount of words can truly describe any event and each person has a different story. It's only my story.

My First Procedure

The doctors and support staff meet about you and your progress daily. Then they decide what kind of 'procedure' you might benefit from and when. You are often told that you are having a procedure only the day before! I received my first procedure after about a week and a half after arriving here. I'd heard a little about the procedures, but had not read anything about them, so I didn't know what to expect. My first procedure was what is referred to as a "DSM," or deep spinal muscle, procedure.

A few of the nurses came to my room dressed in scrubs and told me it was time to come upstairs. On the third floor is a sterile 'surgery' room where some of the procedures take place. I put on the gown they gave me, kept my yoga pants on, and went with them upstairs. When the elevator doors opened to the third floor, I was greeted with a cheerful "Hello Kyla!"

I had no idea who was talking to me until a man pulled down his surgical mask and said, "It's me, O.P!" (Which is short for Om Prakash, I later learned.) If you recall, O.P. picked Jessie and me up from the airport! Ha! Who knew he was a surgery assistant AND a taxi driver?! (He's currently my favorite and I'm always happy when I have a procedure and see his face.) Welcome to India.

I removed my Crocs and walked into the clean room, barefoot, and felt like I'd stepped into the 1970s. The room was clean and brightly lit with medical equipment that looked a lot like the set to M.A.S.H. compared to US modern standards. They had me lie down on a narrow table and put a finger doo-dad on to keep track of my heart rate, etc.

Of course, I couldn't help but notice that every time the door opened and closed with nurses coming in and out, the beeping would speed up in anticipation of Dr. Ashish. It was honestly more nerve-racking than the procedure itself. While waiting, I distracted myself by playing with my heart rate: I thought of tropical beaches, camping in Zion, UT, The Grand Canyon, etc, and heard it slow. Then I would think of needles and impending doom, and hear it crank back up!

Dr. Ashish came in about five minutes later, though it felt like five hours (beep, beep, beep), and cheerfully asked me how I was doing? Um, hello! Freaking out?! But he put my mind at ease, reassured me it wouldn't be a big deal, and then had me turn onto my side and curl in fetal position while three people helped push and hold my legs up into my chest.

While in this comfortable position (not), he directed the mega-watt lights onto my bare back and examined my spine, pressing and fingering the vertebrae, searching for some specific magical place that some anatomy student might know about. He was good about telling me everything he was doing as he was doing it, which I REALLY appreciated.

He cleaned the area and warned me about a small pinch, which I think was a needle with some local anesthetics. He then told me not to move and pushed some sort of larger needle into the muscle next to my spine, about midway up my back. I felt extreme pressure in my back from the needle, then more pressure when he pushed fluid filled with stem cells into the area. The pressure gurgled down into my right hip and stayed there for what felt like forever (like a minute, maybe?), while I focused on impromptu Lamaze breathing.

Just when it stopped and I thought it was over, Dr. Ashish hit me with another shot on the other side of my vertebrate, causing pressure down in the other hip. He talked me through it the whole time, asking about the pressure, where it was, what I was feeling, and reassured me I was doing great and it would be over soon.

When we were finished (whew!) and I slowly uncramped myself from the Sow Bug position, they helped me sit up and got me into a wheelchair. I was wheeled back to my room and instructed to lay flat for an hour before I could get up and carry on with my day 'as usual.' I smiled and tried my best to keep my chin up, barely making it to the room. I made it until they closed my door before breaking down in front of Jessie and crying like a little girl. "Today is not one of my favorite days," I whined.

I described to Jessie how the pain wasn't that great, but the awkward vulnerability got to me. It's pain and pressure in an area you've never felt before. Most people do not know what the inside of their spine or hip feels like! I am already in so much pain in my back that any addition makes me 'lose my cool' — and being in fetal position, with your back exposed, is not a fun way to experience pain.

(Quick note: Looking back, they do get easier and less traumatic, once you know emotionally what to expect. Attitude is huge here, and being positive really helps.)

So, I cried myself to sleep and woke up just fine. Later, one of the nurses told me how excited people were to get procedures! How crazy, I thought to myself. It wasn't until my third procedure, when I really woke up feeling better, that I realized how great procedures really are: You get A LOT of stem cells! Duh!

Bottom line: Bring it on.