Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Judi, her sister Sharon, Jack, Jean, and I all had a very interesting and enlightening trip to the Cell Medicine Lab today. It's out near the canal in an area called the City of Knowledge (pic) - they only do research and testing in this area - no clinics or hospitals. This complete area was built by the Americans while they were here running the canal, so all of the buildings look alike. (pic)

The Cell Medicine Lab is in one of these buildings, and it's impressive once you get inside. We met Melisa there then another young lady took us on the tour, and we had to put on our scrubs to go in the lab rooms. (pic) Every room is very clean and protective as you might expect. I have included some pics of the lab rooms - one you see the lady working in a covered area - she is preparing the injections to be sent to the clinic - you see her holding the syringes that she prepared, and these will be placed in a cooler and taped tightly shut then taken to the clinic. We were obviously not allowed in this most secure area where they were working with the samples and cells - only pictures through the window.

They also took a picture of our own stem cells under the microscope - the cells are the wiggly lines - where there is a bright spot, that is a bubble where the cell is about to divide. They keep these cells in a liquid nitrogen freezer until they are ready to do something with them. How these cells know where to go and what to do when they get in your body, I have no idea. These lab tech's (pic) were trying to explain some of that to us while we were waiting, but it was about like me telling them how and why we run the Zone Read in American football. No intiendo!

These lab techs said it was beneficial for them to meet some of the patients because they work with your fat tissue and cells and samples all with your name on them, but they never really know who it is. So it's interesting and motivating to them when they actually see the person and hear how they are doing because of their efforts. Judi and I both had some small advancements to tell them about and to thank them for.

Keep up the good work Lab crew!

Tomorrow will be my final injection day - we have moved it up to Thursday in order to help us with the final day and preparation for a very early flight on Saturday. So PIP tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Kathy & I celebrate our 31st anniversary today - she is at Cook Ranch near Albany with good friends and family - Sittons, Felts, Clarks & Harrells, and I'm in Panama and was at Monkey Island today. Touring the island cost $35 ($36.75 with tax) and I saw 4 monkeys and one turtle (pics) - that comes out to $9 per monkey and .75 for the turtle, so I hope you really enjoy the pictures.

Jack & Jean went on an exhibit tour featuring butterflies, snakes, orchids, fish, crocodiles, and poisonous tiny frogs. Their tour cost $15 each so they may have gotten more bang for the buck. But they did have to walk the whole time so they were tired. They missed the luxury ride in the tour boat. (pic ) Wish I could have taken Kathy for her anniversary ride in the boat! We all enjoyed the taxi ride back to the city.

I took some other pics of the city so you could see there are parts of the city that are not new high-rise condo's and fancy malls. You see some apartments, a city bus (that everyone tells you not to get on), the fish market, and some students going home from school.

Happy Anniversary, Kath!

Gary, hope you are taking care of the ranch crew - sorry I missed it this year - I'll be ready for next year!

Hasta manana!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday, Monday

It was a typical PIP Monday – PT, Injection, Prone. But the traffic was not typical. It was unbelievably jammed all day, and with the “May the best man win” attitude as the rule of driving, it was really crazy – honking, honking, and honking. Then you throw in that scenario the fact that Brazil, the overwhelming World Cup favorite here, was smashing Chile, 3-1, (that’s smashing in soccer), then it really became a HONK-FEST. If Brazil wouldn’t have been winning, there might have been some carnage with the traffic like it was.

We finally learned the cause of the traffic congestion – they had several main streets blocked off because there were 8 Presidents from other countries coming into the city today. Not sure if they are meeting about something vital or just coming in to go fishing with Enrique!

I included a picture of the Punta Pacifica Hospital (John Hopkins affiliated) where the clinic is located. The STI clinic is not in the hospital, but it’s right beside it. We were in the hospital for the lipo procedure, but all of the injections and IV’s take place in the clinic. I also included a picture of Judy, another MS patient from the DFW area. She’s been a trooper in my eyes – this is her 3rd week – her husband was here the first week, her sister is here this third week, and her daughter is coming the fourth week, but during that second week, she was here by herself! Knowing how much Kathy and J&J have done for me, I really admire Judy for being such a warrior.

We are going to visit the stem cell lab, where they separate and keep all of the cells, on Wed. They bring your cells each injection day from the lab to the clinic in individual small coolers with your name on it. Today they delivered mine while we were sitting in the waiting room, and Dr. Herrero said, “here are your cells.”

Each injection day, I try so hard to relax and be calm, and I really don’t feel that much tension or stress. But each time they take your blood pressure before and after the injection, and the cuff doesn’t lie (kind of like video in football). Today I was all relaxed, thinking it wouldn’t be that high (I have real good BP – normally around 105/70), but when the cuff was through, the machine read 135/77! That’s just a real lesson in stress on your body – you don’t have to feel it for your body to be stressed. As soon as the injection was over, she pushed the button again – new reading 110/ 71 – and I really didn’t feel any different - End of Stress Seminar 101.

Hope those Presidents catch some sierras like I did.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Last Sunday

We will be coming home on Saturday, so this was our last chance to attend the Bible Church that Kathy & I located that first Sunday. Jack & Jean really liked this church as well. The singing was really good again, and J & J got to meet Keith and Wilma. (pic) This is the couple who has a daughter in Waxahachie (Dr. Gorman) - they invited us out for lunch, and the Napoli restuarant was excellent. Keith told us that this restuarant had been in Panama since the 50's and that it's big favorite of the locals. He also shared some stories of the years in Panama when Noriega was in power - very restless times for Americans who were living here. Since they have been in Panama for almost 40 years, they obviously can speak the language well and drive in the city. I've told you about the drivers here, and Wilma gets in her Toyota and jumps right in the middle of them - she's good!

We're heading into our final week at the clinic and at PT. We are hoping to go to the Lab where they process and keep all of the stem cells. We will also have our final meeting with Dr. Paz when he will tell us how many millions of stem cells they put in my body. I am also hoping to move my final injection to Thur instead of Friday because we have to leave the apt at 4:30 AM on Saturday so Friday needs to be a "get packed and ready" day not a "get injection and lie prone" day.

I would like to say once again - thanks for your comments and for your prayers. You have truly helped these weeks go by quicker than I ever thought they would. I hope the blog has given you a little insight into Panama and into stem cell treatments - both were new to me until June and now I'm a big fan of both!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Friday continued

I wrote yesterday's blog before we went to the clinic. While we were at the clinic, Dr. Paz, the main doctor and the one who just returned from a seminar in Corpus Christi, came by again. He asked how I was feeling, and I told him about some of the small improvements. He said that was good news because any signs this early were not real common - he said realistically the new cells need 3 to 6 months to begin doing their best work. And he reminded me that not everyone will see the same results. He's very cautious but hopeful.

My small improvements are encouraging, but I still get stumbly, bumbly as I get tired, so all is not perfect - I do seem to recover a little quicker so that is positive also.

Dr. Paz told us that they were currently working with several children with autism, and that they were getting 4 more this Monday. He also said they were getting 2 siblings with muscular dystrophy - one they have already treated once and had good results so now she is returning for a booster and her brother is going to be treated for the first time. Presently they have several of us with MS and one with a spinal injury. He said they are beginning treatments for Parkinson's and have had just a few of those. Much is happening, and now that the Costa Rica clinic is closed they can actually watch over the groups better and work with the different protocols. They do not do the same thing for the ones with autism and Parkinson's as they do with MS - for one thing they get the patient's own cells from their bone marrow in the hip but for MS patients they get it from the fat cells. He said the stem cells are slightly different in those 2 places. All was interesting to me - hope it is to you.

Since we have been down here we have seen 2 American network (ABC) shows about stem cells. One from Florida where they used a man's stem cells to repair his damaged heart (instead of having a heart transplant), and another from California where they replaced a man's totally damaged cornea by using his stem cells to grow a new a cornea - he could see 20/20 after the procedure. So obviously some US clinics are open to trying this very promising protocol - just not sure why many US doctors act like it doesn't really work. Five years from now they will be leading the stem cell band!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Double Cell Day

It's Friday so I get more stem cells today. I will get the spinal injection of donated cells plus the IV of my own cells. Speaking of my own cells, the lipo bruising has nearly gone away, but the strange sensations haven't. It's hard to describe, but your side and stomach area feel like they are not part of your body - you can feel pressure but you can't feel touch. Those areas are also very sore on the inside especially when Ivan at PT has you doing Ab's and core work - he doesn't seem to remember you had lipo or just doesn't care - Jillian on TV has transformed these trainers!

My improvements are very small right now, but it's still great to feel like you have made a step forward. Here's another one that you normal folks won't understand - I got up this morning and put my coaching shorts on while standing - haven't been able to do that in at least a year. Because of poor balance and the inability to raise my left leg, I just couldn't stand and put on a pair of shorts. Another positive change is the tingling in my legs has disappeared - at night if I tried to sleep on my side, I would get tingling from my calves to my feet - I have been sleeping on my side here in Panama with no tingle.

I share these small improvements because when I return, you may think "he doesn't look very different." Well that's the ugly and difficult part of this disease - many of the things that it is doing to you no one can really see until it gets to advanced stages. Many people will say to MS sufferers, "well you still look good." What other people don't understand is that what you see is not what it's like. (Remember that saying "You don't get MS until you get MS") Here are some things you wouldn't normally see - can't sleep at night because of tingling, can't use the restroom normally because your bladder doesn't work right, can't put your clothes on normally because of poor balance and coordination, can't walk without thinking hard, can't make it through a day because fatigue jumps on you, can't pick up your leg to get into a car without lifting it with your hand, can't find the right words because of mental cloudiness, and there are others. I don't share these with you for your sympathy, but just to give you an idea of how small, unseen improvements seem big to us with the disease. And to tell you that your kindness and generosity are HUGE to me and lift my spirits daily!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Because this was a Thursday and all I did was morning PT, I had determined that there wasn't really anything to Blog about. I had decided everyone could take a day off. Well, about the time I made that decision, the apt phone rang (this phone only connects to downstairs). When I picked it up thinking "who would be calling on this phone?", the voice on the other end said, "Sam, this is Felton Smith - we're downstairs!"

What thrill it was to see Felton, Betty, and David, my fellow Ennis-ites and my brothers and sister from GB church. They are in Panama helping teach the Bible to little ones and also helping complete a huge cement project that the school needed. They made the effort to come across the city to find me, and that effort made my day! Obviously I had something for the blog now. Thanks Felton, Betty and David for taking the time and effort to find a brother halfway across our continent!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mercado de Publico

Jack & Jean went to the public market this morning - they have a fish, a meat, and a fruit & vege market all in the same area - everything is fresh, and they cut it up for you right there. They are fileting the fish or cutting toes off chicken feet (so you can cook the chicken feet) or cutting beef right off the bone. Maybe you can see some of those sights from the pics. J & J bought some sierra, the same fish I caught on Saturday - the market people said it was the best in Panama! (Enrique say "Good Fish.") And how about the size of the shrimp!

These were also the best prices that any of our group have found so far. The 12 giant shrimp cost 2 dollars! They catch lobsters each day too, but they said that the restaurantes come at 4:30 in the morning and buy all the lobsters.

I went to PT as usual this morning - all went well. Ivan is still working on my balance and overall strength - I usually feel pretty good when I go in but more wobbly when I leave. That makes sense because my muscles are so far behind that they get exhausted easily then they become less steady. Still my walking and coordination have improved - it's only a small amount of improvement right now, but I believe that progression will continue.

I haven't had improvement in any area in the last 3 or 4 years at home, so this treatment is still the right choice. We will be patient and trusting - God could have had Naaman wash in the Jordan River only one time to heal his leprosy, but God told him 7 times. Do you think the muddy waters of the Jordan actually did something, or was God wanting to see some patience and trust? Patient and trusting we will be!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Market Day

After PT this morning and lunch at the apt, Jack & Jean wanted to go look around at a local market - homemade things from carvings, to jewelry, to purses, and clothes and much more. We have found an English-speaking taxi-driver whom we can call, so we called Luiz and went to the market. Jean found plenty, and I think she got the best prices in the whole place - she bargained hard!

We see lots of workers and students when we get out. With all of the building going on in this area, there is no shortage of jobs, and every morning there are many, many workers walking one direction, then around 3:00 they are going back the other way. Most have backpacks on and actually look more like students.

The public schools here have 2 sessions each day - a morning then afternoon session - so we see many students around noon, either leaving for home or coming to school. They are all dressed in true uniforms, so you can spot them easily. The school here is in session because it's not their summer time - their summer break is from January to March. It never gets below 65 degrees or above 85 degrees so hot/cold is not the determining factor of summer - it's whether or not it's the rainy season - rain each day is their bad weather so that's winter.

Yesterday and today have been really nice days here for the rainy season. The sun has been out most of the day, and it's really nice. A little warmer than normal, and that change has had an effect on my walking. I obviously haven't conquered the heat intolerance of MS, but things are still better, so I'm not complaining.

It's amazing how little I knew about other places. This trip has been very educational as well as physically beneficial. All of us need to realize that our US doesn't have the monopoly on medical treatments like we like to think it should. Thanks again to all of you who helped me get here!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Long day for me / Short day for blog

As you know by now, Monday and Friday are my big days here - I go to PT around 10:30, then home for lunch, then to clinic for my injection, and back here for lying prone. Long day but not too much to report in the blog.

Today's injection will be my 5th - I will get 3 more (total of 8), and I will get 2 IV's of my own stem cells. I wish I could say I was at ease with the spinal injections by now, but I still get a little edgy. Some of the patients take muscle relaxers before their injections each time so the Dr. can have a less tense target - so far I have been OK without the relaxers.

Jack & Jean made it in last night around 9:30 - it was sure good to see them. They came with their Panama books and guides, so when we get some down time, they will have plenty to do. In fact they may have to stay an extra month to see all of the things they have marked in their Panama Guide book!

I sure have enjoyed reading your encouraging and sometimes funny comments. I look forward to seeing those every day, so thanks for making my day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Restful Sunday

Kathy left for Texas this morning at 6:15 so it's been a slow but restful day. Jack & Jean are coming in tonight, so I will have some good company and help for these next two weeks.

I'm really looking forward to these next weeks because I have seen some small progressions, and I'm really excited about how that will continue. My walking has clearly improved and I don't have to think about it as much. For about 2 years I have had to think and say "heel / toe , heel / toe" just to keep my legs going, but I haven't seemed to need to do that as much these last few days. I know most of you are thinking that sounds crazy, but that's part of this ugly disease - things just don't work like they used to. There's a saying in the MS circles - You don't get (understand) MS, until you get MS.

I also think these people here are onto something with their fitness and eating program. It makes sense and it helps everyone get where they should be. You might like to google Bill Cortright and look at his ideas on Stress Response - Lifestyle Program. He gives so many examples of people who you can all relate to.

Happy Father's Day to all of you fathers - hope you have a GREAT day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Great day of Eagle Fishing

Let me explain my title. We went fishing today thanks totally to the Abilene High football coaches. Steve Warren called me back in March and said "We want to donate some money for your trip but we have one requirement - it must be used for fishing. Yes, we want you to have a nice get-a-way day and just go fishing." That was so thoughtful and generous of those state champs, so today was our Eagle fishing day.
Now let me tell you about the trip. We could have hooked up with some big 42' boat and done some tourist fishing, but we decided on another venue. We took a ferry 12 miles out to Taboga island [pic]- a little pickup picked us up (because it's too much walking uphill for me) and took us to a real picturesque Bed & Breakfast [pic] where they fixed us breakfast - then we went down to the water and met our boat [pic] (Kathy wasn't too prepared for the SS Desta - she still thought it would be some big comfortable ride) - but I wanted simply a local fisherman to take us out like they do each day and Enrique [pic] was our local fisherman (he spoke absolutely no English except 2 words I will tell you later) - he took us out around these small islands in the Pacific - it was a little rough (as you can see from Kathy's fishing position - she's not sunning) [pic] - I simply trolled while Enrique took us around the islands - we did that for about an hour and half with not even a nibble and I was about to tell him that trolling wasn't my favorite or best fishing technique - I wanted to tell him I like how Gary Sitton and I fish back behind his house (not that I have ever caught anything there either but it's much more relaxing) - but about that time, WHAM! - it hit my line and started running - when I got her in, Enrique said it was a sierra [pic] - "good fish" he said. We did a little more trolling then later headed back to land - we walked up to the B & B (every local we passed on the little street said "Good fish") and they prepared our sierra for lunch [pic].

Now for some of you real fishermen, you may not think one sierra is much of a catch - for me it was a highlight reel. Many of you have heard my Breckenridge Phil Dye fishing story, so for me to bring one in all on my own and to be the biggest fish I have ever caught, I was happy. ( I average about one fish every 2 decades, so this big one is good.)

It was a great day especially when you consider the weather - it poured practically all day except for the time we were out away from the B & B - Not a drop - Unbelievable! God was smiling on us, and most likely because He knew there were some great guys from Abilene, Texas who had given from their hearts for this outing! Thanks Steve and the many other coaches at AHS - your gift was appreciated greatly!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Busy Friday

Well today is a full day. We've been to the fitness center where we had the normal PT. But also today the nutritionalist met with us and went over the best diet for us and possible supplements. They want you on an anti-inflammatory diet - I didn't know what that would be but I do now - and I even know why my body needs that diet. When I use that word "diet", don't think that means eating less than I am - quite the opposite - on this diet, I may weigh 250 lbs in 3 months.

We will go to the clinic at 3:30 for our injection and then lie flat for the recommended time, and that will about make the day.

I've included some pictures from yesterday. Ivan and his brother Gustavo came over in the afternoon for some QB training. Then for supper last night we met Edward and Janice, the couple we met in the airport when we arrived. Janice is the lady with the scooter and she will probably use it again at the airport when they leave tomorrow (Our wish was for her not to need it on the return trip), but she has made some good progress - she's walking better and she used the escalator last night for the first time in several years. So these small steps are very encouraging, and I believe bigger gains will continue once she is back home. She is very pleased with her trip to Panama.

Hasta mañana!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Favorite Book & Good News

Today was another slow day with only PT.
I'm glad I knew there would be some down time during these weeks - that's why I brought an Ipod with songs, 5 audiobooks (I've finished 3), and 15 podcasts from the Beltway church in Abilene. I have plenty of encouraging things to listen to during my downtime. However, my favorite "book" of encouragement is one the football team gave me on our last day of regular classes. The pages contain note cards from the players with their own words of support. I read it again this morning - some make me laugh, some bring a tear, and all give me confidence! Thanks guys (players and coaches) - you're the Best!

When I got up this morning, I really felt like my walking and balance were decisively better. I didn't want to say anything to Kathy, but she said "you look like you're walking better." Then at PT Ivan said, "you're walking faster than I am." Now after PT, my legs were wobbly like always so the fatigue factor is still there, but we have seen the first sign of actual improvement in 4 years! Now let's not think it's time for the celebration cake yet, but you might start preheating that oven!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Routine Day

Another day of simply Physical Therapy, so not too much to report. Ivan is doing a good job - very patient and encouraging. Everyone in the workout facility was tuned into the World Cup. Since Panama's team is not in the WC, many different flags are being flown around here - seems like the most popular teams here are Brazil and Spain.

We had Steve, Suzie and Nancy over for dinner tonight. We really haven't had the opportunity to see or visit with Steve much because we are on different treatment schedules and stay in different buildings, so it was good to see them and catch up with his progress. He feels his strength and his balance have improved, and he is walking more than when he arrived so that is all good. Tomorrow is his last day of injections, and they are leaving for Texas on Friday. I know they will be ready to be home.

Suzie, Nancy and Kathy are going to do some market shopping tomorrow so they won't be slowed down by the men - that might be good news and bad news!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday - 2nd week

Nothing much to report - had PT this morning - Ivan is just doing some very basic things with me that you would think - oh brother - like walking in a line while holding a ball - now that sounds difficult, doesn't it? Well if you could see me stumbling and falling, you would think I had only a tightrope under me - but no, it's the whole floor! I have to remember - that's why I'm here. I would love to see some improvements in some of those areas of balance and coordination, but I can't get too expectant. They will come at the right time.

I'm getting to coach some football while I'm here - that's fun. Ivan happens to play QB for a local football team (real football). I won't tell you how we got from that tidbit to me coaching him (yes, it involves Kathy), but I enjoy talking QB stuff anyway. So he is coming by the apt after his work and we are going to talk QB play and drills. His little brother plays QB for his team too, so we're hoping to get the whole family throwing better spirals. Of course, he can't stay too long because the Yankees are on TV tonight and then the Celtics - QB's, Yanks, & Celtics - that makes for a good night!

Don't touch that remote - hasta mañana!

Monday, June 14, 2010

2nd Week begins

For the next 3 weeks I will be on the same schedule - Mon & Fri will be PT and injection day; Tue, Wed, & Thur will be PT only. So today I went to PT before lunch then had my 3rd injection at 3:30 - as always, after the injection, I had to come home and lie flat for over 3 hours. I got up at 7:30, and Kathy had a tasty tuna salad with a big bowl of fruit salad waiting on me.

The PT trainer, Ivan (on my left in the picture), is working on my balance and legs 3 days a week and focusing on my core strength the other 2 days. That's one thing that is bad about MS - you can't do very much because of the disease, so while you do nothing, your muscles are deteriorating and your coordination is worsening. Therefore, you get worse because your nerves don't work correctly and because of your lack of exercise. You're double-dipping in the wrong direction. Hopefully Ivan is going to help that problem and will teach us what to do when we return. Everyone is very nice and very helpful here.

Steve is into his 4th and final week and seems to be doing well with the treatments. Suzie is coming back tomorrow and I know he is looking forward to having her here again. Everyone reminds us that it will take several weeks after we get home to see some distinguishable results, so we are being very patient and trusting.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Relaxing Sunday

Today's been a nice relaxing day - that ought to be good for these new stem cells.

We did find a church to go to this morning - Crossroads Bible Church. The message was in English - the singing was a mixture of English and Spanish and was very good. We met the pastor and his wife, Steve and Heather Gunn, and they were very friendly.

The second person we met was Keith Forster who has lived in Panama for the last 40 years - but he has a daughter who lives in Waxahachie! Pretty amazing. Keith and his sweet wife, Wilma, gave us a ride home during a downpour that started as soon as church was over. It was easy finding a taxi from our apt to the church, but finding a taxi in the rain for the return trip was going to be difficult, so Keith & Wilma were truly angels.

Seems like wherever you are, you can go to worship and feel at home.

Hasta mañana!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekend sights

Yesterday's 2nd injection went fine - no headaches or chills or fever. No improving signs yet but it's too early.
Thought I might just show some sights of Panama City that we have seen - went to the causeway today - Kathy & I at la restuarante - I had grilled octopus! (Can you believe that, K Boston)

These ships are in the Pacific Ocean waiting to go thru the canal. They have to wait until their check is cleared through the Bank of Panama!

Another day we went to Ancon Hill - this is a view of Casco Viejo - the old city.

This view is of the new city with all of it's condos and hotels - very American-like - still from Ancon Hill just adjacent to the old city.

Here's a shot of the Bridge of Americas from Ancon Hill - the road that will get you from Central America to South America.

This picture is in Casco Viejo - it's a very old church with ornate carving with gold plating.

We take taxis to these places and that is always interesting. If you paint your car taxi yellow, then it's a taxi - may be an old Mazda PU, or exhaust blowing Toyota or a old van - doesn't matter as long as it's yellow! They don't have meters or rules - you tell them where you want to go - they say "yes" and then you say "how much?" If it's more than 5 dollars, you say "no" and they come down. You finally get in and better hold on - driving is absolutely crazy - worse than NYC because they have no rules or concerns - just blow their horn and pull out in front of anyone or anything. It's really not believable - but they get you where you want to go and it doesn't cost much. So hop in and enjoy the ride!

Friday, June 11, 2010

End of Week One

Friday is always physical therapy and spinal injection day. Not much to tell you about the 2nd injection - 30 minutes at the clinic, spinal injection, and 4 hours lying flat on your back. Hard to make that very interesting. I am thankful for the Ipod that Clark gave me - I've already finished two audiobooks and have 3 or 4 more for the days coming.

It was my first day of physical therapy, so it was mostly an evaluation day. They wanted to see what areas needed the most attention. They quickly could see my legs didn't work well and my balance was bad - left leg is worse than my right. So I assume they will be working on those areas over the next 3 weeks as I will have PT every day during that time.

In Costa Rica most of the patients stayed at the same hotel, so there seemed to be some bonding there. Here we stay in different places so you only see each other as you come and go from the clinic or PT. I would like to know more people's story, but it's not real easy. We have met several people - Janice from Texas (MS), Dana from Louisiana (MS), Julie from Minnesota (MS), and a sweet lady from Texas (eye disease that is taking her vision) and her sister from Wisconsin.

To these ladies and to Steve, I wish the best and pray for God to work through these treatments to give them improvement. Even small increments of improvement generate hope and enthusiasm. We all need Jericho's - those small victories in the face of troubled times.

Hasta manana!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

20 lbs lighter

Well not really, but I did have lipo this morning - Dr. Picard, a plastic surgeon, performed the lipo - he spoke English so I felt very good about what he was doing. While I was in recovery, he told Kathy that he was pleased with the procedure and felt like they gathered some good fat tissue with plenty of active stem cells. The lab will harvest the cells from the fat tissue and will tell us later how many they were able to collect - they try to get anywhere from 50 to 150 million cells and hope that many of those cells are active.

I actually felt better coming out of surgery than early this morning. Last night wasn't real positive - around 12:00 I woke up with the dreaded spinal headache and fever and chills - didn't sleep much after that point. I didn't feel good this morning, but after going through lipo and spending about 3 hours in recovery (sleeping), I felt much better. Dr. Hernandez said the fever and chills are fairly common with the first injection and doesn't mean anything bad. So after hearing that news and sleeping more, I feel much better right now.

As I have said before, I know God could heal me in a blink, but if He chooses to use stem cells as His vehicle, then I think there is a definite purpose in that process and it has caused some positive growth in me. First off, having me pursue this procedure caused me to take an active role, and I believe God asks us to do that - not simply sit and expect him to heal in a blink. Also healing in a blink would not challenge my pride like the current method. It has been very good for my spirit to allow others to help because that act is very overwhelming and humbling - that's not easy for us but allowing others to help becomes very strengthening. You people have been incredible.

God is Good - friends are good!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stem Cells have landed

Well I got my first treatment today - injection of cord blood stem cells in the spinal area. The lady in the picture, Dr. Tribaldos, was the one who administered it. Didn't really hurt - Dr. T did a good job. They then sent me "home" to lie flat for 3 to 4 hours - guard against the headaches. I'm up now and think I'm doing fine.

Tomorrow at 6:45 AM we go to the hospital for the lipo - not sure what to think about that part, but it's necessary so I guess it doesn't matter what I think. The other fellow in the picture, Dr. Hernandez, will be there during the lipo, but he doesn't do the procedure.

We begin physical therapy on Friday, and for the next 3 weeks I will go 5 days a week for PT. Steve had his 5th injection this week and seems to be doing well. He says he feels stronger and that's a good sign.

I thought it would be fitting to wear my Yankee shirt on the #1 day - I'm sure my Ennis coaches feel the same!

Hasta la vista!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Visit to The Canal

With some spare time we decided to go see the Panama Canal (took a taxi and that's a story for another time) - much more to the canal than I knew and obviously I can't share all of that now but I will give you a few fun facts.

These locks (what you see in the pictures) lift the ship up above sea level so it can cross through water inside the country; then similar locks lower the ship back to sea level so it can enter the ocean (that's in simple layman terms). The huge ship gets inside the lock, then the doors are closed behind it, then the water level is changed and the doors in front of the ship are opened - you can see some of those stages in the pictures. The ship does not sail through the locks - it is pulled by these railroad-looking cars beside the canal.

This huge tanker in the picture paid $350,000 to cross through the canal! That toll goes to the Panamanian gov - the US did operate the Canal until 1999 then it was turned over to Panama. It was built during the early 1900's and officially opened in 1914 - the same doors and mechanisms have been being used down in the water for nearly 100 years!

On the treatment front - I get my first spinal injection tomorrow (Wed) - it takes less than an hour at the clinic but then you go back to your apartment and lay flat for 4 hours so you won't get the spinal headache.

While we were in the clinic yesterday, two different children with autism were there for treatments. Dr. Paz also told us about treating a man with severe arthritis and helping him greatly. Dr. Paz is going to a convention in San Antonio to talk about his arthritis protocol. It's not just MS patients who are being treated here.

Some of you may want to check into these treatments for you or for loved ones - it's OK to be pro-active with your health!

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Day at SCI

We had our first visit at the Stem Cell Institute this morning, and all went well. We met with Dr. Paz, who is the director of the clinic, and he went over everything and answered all questions. He practiced for 12 years in San Antonio before coming to Panama in order to do more work with stem cells.

I have my first stem cell injection on Wednesday - this injection has stem cells from donated cord blood - later I will get stem cells harvested from my own body. I'm scheduled for lipo on Thursday to harvest my own - Dr. Paz said thinner people often have more stem cells in their limited fat tissue, so Kathy's attempt to "fatten me up" was probably not that necessary!

All of this is very exciting and would have never been possible without the generosity of so many people. As I was sitting at the clinic talking about the real possibility of improving, the thought of those gracious gifts and many prayers really struck me. I again say THANK YOU!!

More news later.

BTW - This one picture is the daytime view of the same picture that I sent on Saturday - just showing some of the view of this area of Panama City.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Live from Panama

Well, we made it to Panama City - here's the view toward the hospital from our room - as you can see Panama City is a big place.
Everything went very smooth on the trip other than sitting right in front of a guy who talked the whole 4 and half hours - I would describe him as "big hat / no cattle".

Couple of observations:
The people in Panama drive like ones in NYC - not as many cars of course, but signs don't mean much - just a slight look then gun it!
It gets dark here around 6:45 - it was light then it was dark - no "sun going down" time - it's like they turn the light switch off!

Our first visit to the clinic isn't until Monday morning, so tomorrow we will probably go the Super 99 supermarket that's across the street and maybe to a local fruit market. The Pacific Ocean is right beside us so we will go see the ships lining up out in the ocean waiting to go thru the Canal. Hopefully we will get a picture of the ocean to send with tomorrow's report.

We are meeting Steve and his mother for lunch tomorrow at their place - their building is about 30 yards from ours. I can't wait to hear about Steve's two weeks!

We met another couple on the flight from DFW area who are coming here for stem cell treatments - Edward and Janice from North Richland Hills. Janice has had MS for nearly 10 years - she uses a scooter now. We said she came through the airport on the scooter and will leave without using it! That's her goal and our prayer.

Until tomorrow - turn out the lights!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Final day

We leave in the morning - Saturday - I'm ready and excited - we heard good news from Steve Betik yesterday - he was on the treadmill at PT! He told Suzie that he was using his cane less and felt stronger. That is exciting and I'm so happy for him. This is his 2nd week - he has 2 more weeks so we will see him tomorrow when we arrive in Panama.

One reason I wanted to send this report was to practice sending a picture so I can get ready to send some back from Panama - don't have any of Panama right now so I'm sending one of Big Jackson - we have plenty of him and we are so grateful to BC & Sloan for sharing him with us - he may be walking before I get back.

It took me about 45 min but I finally got the pic of Jackson on here - this MacBook doesn't communicate with me like Windows but I'm getting used to it - I can't ever find files as easily as I do in Windows. Enough about my Mac problems. Next report will be coming from Panama - I promise. See ya Jackson.