Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 0 - Stem cell transplant / infusion Birthday

It's now Tuesday morning here in Heidelberg. Yuko and Judy have arrived for the big day and snapped these pictures to memorialize the event of the day. And today IS the day! And it could almost go unnoticed because my stem cell transplant infusion procedure only takes a matter of minutes to complete. Perhaps about fifteen-to-twenty minutes, or so. It could easily be described as anticlimactic.

But that description beguiles the real significance of today’s event. This isn’t just about me getting life handed back to me in terms of surviving the destructive chemotherapy (although I have to admit this is an important part of the event). No, the real issue in my being here going through this marks the turning point for curing my MS. This doesn’t mean that I won’t have some temporary worsening of existing MS events & symptoms in the near term. I expect temporary transient worsening of my existing symptoms for perhaps several more months due to the general chemo stress on my body. [Post transplant note: actually the only MS-related symptomatic worsening I experienced was slight, but noticeable leg spasticity. However, as expected, this was only temporary and it completely resolved in a matter of a few months. Other than this, I had no added MS symptoms of any kind.]

Instead, what today significantly marks is that the underlying etiology and root cause of my Multiple Sclerosis is going to be immutably changed for the better. I completely believe with all my heart (and foundation science) that today is the seminal day of fundamental and positive change by means of what most people would probably consider this aggressive therapy. But I have confidence that in the long run and end, this will pay off in spades for me and my family. I think that within the next year it will likely become clear to me that my MS disease activity will be stopped in its tracks. And then on top of this, there is a good likelihood (>60% chance) that I will see actual reversal of existing deficit caused by the MS. [Post transplant note: This was too conservative of a time prediction. By +6 months it became clear that my disease was both stopped, and reversing. As good as I could have imagined it would be.]

So bottom line. . . this day marks the transition to my "completely new & improved" immune system that will likely be MS-free going forward. At this point I think there is little more to say beyond this comment since in a scientific and clinical perspective it will take some more time to show & prove the actual result.

George's stem cells during re-infusion. At first glance it doesn't look like that much. Hard to believe that's my future life & health in that bag. . . . . .

All done!

Just a side note to anyone considering this treatment for MS. . . prior to the cryopreservation of the stem cells a chemical preservative with the acronym of DMSO is added to the stem cell plasma solution to help reduce the destructive effect of the liquid nitrogen temperature on the stem cell walls. Basically it helps to somewhat protect the stem cells and make more available for the beneficial engraftment effect once they are back in my body. However, DMSO has a tendency to cause a sudden, but common acute side effect that feels like chest tightness. As if someone sat on my chest and a little bit restricted my breathing. Dr. McClanahan administered an antihistamine prior to the procedure in anticipation of this effect. It must have had some benefit because it only lasted about fifteen minutes, and then resolved.

Last note. . . I can't detect it myself but DMSO gives off a strong garlic/onion odor from my body for about 24 hours. This evening Yuko and Judy said I really stink of garlic!

Time for me to hit the sack. Hope everyone is getting ready for a great New Year celebration this week!

- George

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