Friday, March 25, 2011

Ultima dia - Last Day

We are flying back to Texas tomorrow, so this will probably be our last blog. Thank you for reading, and I hope it has given you a little better idea of what's going on here with the treatments and with Panama City. It's a very interesting city that you need to visit someday.

I definitely want to say thanks to Jack & Jean for making the trip with me again. They were great! I felt like they spent most of their time walking to Super 99 and Super Kosher and preparing meals - Jean would always fix meals that were "legal" on the Bio-Fit eating plan. It's not a diet because if you follow it, you will be eating healthy and eating all day! I could have never made it without them. I hope we can return one day simply to eat at Napolis and chase raspado vendors - Jean's two "must do's"!

I also want to say thanks to all of the wonderful folks who made these stem cell treatments possible. So many incredible coaches and friends across the state and many great folks from Ennis and Ellis Co all made it possible by giving to the Foundation of Hope last year. You were so generous that your gifts funded the trip in June and this second trip, and I would have not made either one without you. We called it Foundation of Hope because you have put Hope back in my life, and I will be forever grateful!

I am also thankful for Dr. Davis and others who created the Foundation and who are still managing it and looking to do more through it. Our hope is for Steve and me to be at the next fund raising event and to jog up to the podium this time so you can be a witness to what these treatments have done for us, and we can all raise more funds for others who have been struck with MS.

I want to say thanks and bid farewell to my friends in Panama at the clinic and at Bio-Fit - Dr. Herrero, Dr. Hernandez, Dr. Paz, Dr. Randy, nurse Santamaria, nurse Tamara, Samantha, Vivianne, Silvia, Yelena, both Robertos, our drivers, Lou, Senor Jarvier, Dick, and the others at Bio-fit, and to Luis, the best taxi man in Panama. I'm looking forward to coming home, but it was still a little sad leaving those people today - this being the second visit made them all feel like good friends.

After my last injection today, I came back to lie flat for the 2 1/2 hours, and then we went to the Multi-Plaza Mall to eat our final dinner in Panama. Jack got pizza, Jean got sushi, and I got KFC - sounds like some true Panamanian food, doesn't it. We're ready for some good Texas barbeque and Mexican food.

Thanks again for everything - love to all!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A New View and a New Treat

Well, our little trip to find raspados was quite enjoyable and enlightening. Luis, our favorite taxi driver, took us to find a street vendor then he took us to the park that is below us and next to the ocean.(see the video first for this view - this video is at the bottom of the blog) We've been looking at this park from the 22nd floor and when you get down there, it is much larger and very nice. Plus when you get down there everything else looks bigger and different.

For istance, we didn't realize the Trump Tower was so large and was concave shaped. We also got a picture from this new angle of the island with the white "house" on it; plus a shot of the ships waiting in line for entrance to the Canal; some more Frigate birds swooping around looking for some birds with food; a shot of people playing in the park; and a photo of the rough rocks that are all along the shoreline (now we know why we don't ever see kids jumping in the water down there).

Now, back to those delicious raspados. You see the vendor making one - he puts the snow-cone cup in his ice shaver, flips it over with one flick of his wrist, and begins scraping the ice - it takes him about 10 seconds to fill that cup. Then you choose your flavor - the best one was maracuya - Luis told us that was the best flavor and he was right. Not sure you can see the condensed milk swirled around on top of Jean's maracuya, but it's there and it was good.

This blog entry is free - no charge - your extra entry for the day. I wanted to give you a feel of what we saw from the park, and I wanted you to know what it was like to find the raspados vendor. This one didn't have his umbrella up because it wasn't too sunny, but the raspados were still good - just didn't get the full affect of chasing down a vendor with his umbrella. You definitely need to put raspados on your "must do" list for your trip to Panama - and don't forget maracuya is The Flavor.

More Panamanian Meandering

Do you remember the guys working on the scaffold and painting the building next to us? Well, we got a picture of them pulling their scaffold up in place. Look at this guy - he's sitting on a ledge at the top of the building, leaning over, pulling this rope, one leg dangling off as if he's watching Frigate birds and drinking coffee - and he's about 25 stories high (that's the building in the next picture after they are on the scaffold)!

Also got a picture of Lou, my trainer at Bio-Fit - it's Lou, me, and Dick who worked with me some last year and is still a trainer there. Also got a picture of school kids walking down the street, going home. Remember the kids in public school go for half a day each day - some in the morning and others in the afternoon. Their 3 month break (summer break) just ended at March - they were off from Dec - Feb - that's part of the dry season, and it's always warm here so climate doesn't matter.

The last picture is one of a huge ship (cruise ship, we think) that sailed into the area much closer than any ship has ever come. It's in the area of the Panama Canal entrance, but it turned right toward us then dropped anchor and sat still for about 15 minutes. Jean thought it was a cruise ship with someone who got sick, so they came closer and dropped them off. Jack thought that was ridiculous - he surmised it was a cruise ship that only wanted to float around instead of "sit in line" at the canal. Neither one wanted to think the other scenario was remotely possible. I simply thought their conversation was better than a Seinfeld episode.

Finally, I want to review my last book of the trip. I finished Andy Andrews' The Traveler's Gift last night, and it was an very good read. It's one that I can recommend for Penny (Boston); she always likes to hear about good books, but I knew I needed to get something different than a basketball book and a criminal, drug-lord book for her to like (or she might quit reading my book reviews - librarians are a tough sell on books). The Traveler's Gift is very good - it combines a present-day story, with some known people in history, with some great life lessons. Penny, it's probably not as good as Same Kind of Different As Me, so don't hold me to that level every time.

We are planning on going out on the street this afternoon to find one of the street vendors who sells raspados - Panamanian snow cone - it has shaved ice with your choice of various flavors and condensed milk! I know that sounds horrible (with that condensed milk), but everyone just raves about them and says you must get one. So "find raspados" has been on our "must do" list, and our time is running short for our "must do's". We thought we better do it today since tomorrow is an injection day, and I won't have the afternoon to chase down some street vendor, riding a bicycle with an umbrella and selling day-old condensed milk poured over some fruit flavored ice! (I'll send a picture tomorrow)

Tomorrow is our last day of treatments, so our stay is about over. It's gone quickly. I'm ready for those "LaBron" stem cells to kick in.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SCI staff and the Trifecta

I finally remembered to take the camera to the clinic, so I wanted to "introduce" you to the staff at the Stem Cell Institute. As I told you before they have a new, larger clinic this year and more people working at the clinic.

At the front of the office is Jelana, the receptionist. She's very friendly and speaks to me in Spanish each time I arrive for me to practice mi Espanol. Once you go past that room, you see Samantha and Vivianne - they are the coordinators of your stay here - setting up your PT times and your clinic times and coordinating the drivers to deliver you to both places.

You go back to a treatment room to get your spinal injections and that's where these three doctors and nurses are - you see nurse Santamaria, me, Dr. Herrero, and Dr. Bowen, before I get my injection today.

I got the Trifecta today so I thought I would snap these other pictures of the treatment. I didn't give you the spinal view, but I do show you the syringe that holds the stem cell mixture that they inject into my spinal fluid. This one syringe has between 7 - 10 million stem cells in it. Then I show you the IV photo with the syringe of stem cells (another 7 - 10 million) - Dr. Hernandez is administering this IV. And I have a picture of the booster shot in my leg. So you get the complete Trifecta in living color.

There are several new patients who arrived this week, and I have met them at the clinic or at Bio-Fit. Kyle from Enid, Oklahoma is here for MS treatments - he has his wife and FIVE children (all under age 11) with him. His wife may volunteer for the PT and injections before their four weeks are up. He's really nice and I sure am praying for him to see some improvements.

Then we have the Texas connection. Ken from Ft. Worth is here for MS treatments; another man and his mom are here with his young son who is being treated for autism and they are from Amarillo; another couple is here from DeLeon; and then one more couple, from Beeville, is here for his arthritis treatments. So it's been good meeting all of them and being able to reassure them that everything at the clinic and Bio-Fit is good and done right.

My prayers go out for all of these families - that God may use these stem cells as His instrument to help these people with these disabling diseases. As I have said before, I know God doesn't need stem cells to heal people, but He also didn't need the Jordan river to heal Naaman yet He had Naaman dip himself seven times in the river before removing his leprosy.

We're all walking by Faith!

Panama Life

I can hear Kathy saying, "you need to put more pictures in the blog." She likes pictures. So I thought I would give you some pictures and comments of several normal, everyday sights here in Panama City. Several are taken from our apartment view. Jack & Jean love to sit on the balcony and watch the daily activities and drink their coffee. It's very pleasant out there from morning to evening.

They love to watch these large Frigate birds swoop around the apartment - they are out there every day because they are ocean birds, common to Panama. These birds are really much larger than you can tell from the pictures so they are fun to watch as they come quite close. They don't swoop down to the water and pluck fish, but they swoop around stealing food from other birds. They let the other birds do the fishing then they just do the "shopping" - kind of like the big bully waiting outside the lunchroom.

Across from our balcony there is a crew working on the side of the building on this hanging scaffold. (I wish you could see them get the scaffold up on the wall each day - I don't think it would pass OSHA standards in USA) You can see them in the up-close shot then in the normal shot where they look rather small on the huge building. They have a sign down at the bottom about "Hiring" if you would like to get a job down here.

I gave you a picture of the street below us when there were several taxis on the street. We have become quite familiar with these taxis, and it's never hard to find one as you can tell from the picture.

Also from our building you can see this "twisting" building that is brand new - they were working on it last year, but it is finished now and is very impressive (better than the pic).

We went to the fish market yesterday, not to buy fish but to eat lunch. They have this cafe on the second floor of the market and it's very popular with the locals. (pics of the cafe then of the market down below) There's definitely not anyone speaking English there so be ready to guess and point. And there's something special about eating fish above the open fish market in everyday Panama (this isn't part of those big, fancy condos I have shown you in other pictures before) - those of you who say "I don't like that fishy smell or fishy taste when I eat fish", you don't need to come to the fish market for lunch - trust me.

This motorcycle is the normal delivery source in Panama. This one is a delivery for McDonald's and you see similar pizza delivery cycles all of the time. Even the Fed-Ex and DHL (I haven't seen UPS) guys are on these motorcycles. They zip around, open their trunk, deliver the package, and are off.

Hope you enjoy the pictures - I need to get some of Lou at the fitness center and of the Stem Cell clinic - they have a new, larger clinic and more people working at the clinic, so I need to "introduce" them to you.

Pictures (not in any order)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bigger, Faster!

I've been reading and studying some stories from Chick-fil-A's founder, Truett Cathy. There's some great leadership principles to be learned from him, and here's one that I wanted to share.

In the 1990's they had their first real competition in their specific market, so the corporate leaders started thinking how they were going to face this competetion. They were meeting in Atlanta and all of these younger guys were talking about what they needed to do to get "bigger, faster" - borrow more money, open more stores, etc. - bigger, faster - bigger, faster - was the main thought. Finally Truett banged on the table (which was unusual) and said "we don't need to worry about getting bigger, faster - we just need to worry about getting BETTER. When we get better, our customers will demand we get bigger." Let that sink in and rumble around some. "When we get better, our customers will demand we get bigger."

If we are leading a business, or a football team, or a class at school, or even a church, there's a message there for us. You make it the best it can be, and the growth will take care of itself. Thanks Mr. Cathy!

Obviously, that has nothing to do with Panama other than I have more time than normal, and I get to blog about anything I choose, so that is your first message from Panama today.

The following videos are about Panama. I've been watching how much of a difference in the ocean there is when the "tide is in" and when the "tide is out". It goes from a beautiful view of blue water to an ugly site of mud and rock. The following videos show the two "tide" times.

PS - I know you are craving a Chick-fil-A sandwich, now that I got your mind on it, so go get you one today. And as you take that first, delicious bite, say "thanks" to Truett for making his place better, not just bigger. (If you are really craving some "better", you might give the manager the signal for one of those delicious hand-spun milkshakes - he'll know what you signaling.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reporte el lunes

I haven’t told you much about Physical Therapy this trip. I still go to the same fitness center, Bio-Fit, but I have a different trainer this year. Last year it was Ivan, but he is working at a hospital physical therapy center now. We have talked to him several times, and he came by last Wednesday and had dinner with us - it was really good to see him. He’s still involved in football, a tackle league and a flag league and is even coaching a girls’ football team. He may be the Knute Rockne of Panama football.

My new trainer at Bio-Fit is Louvina – I call her Lou. She’s good – speaks less English than Ivan – not a slave driver but truly wants to help my stiff walking and wobbly balance. Only staying two weeks doesn’t give me much training time here, but it will give me some things to take back home. And once I get back to Ennis, I do have the slave driver, Tommy Copeland, every M-W-F morning.

I had my third injection today, and all went fine. My blood pressure this year hasn't gone up during pre-game like last year. Obviously I'm much more relaxed with the whole process plus Dr. Herrero does a good job of keeping the anxiety low. It was about this time in the treatment process that I began to see some slight changes last time. I remember being able to put my shorts on while standing and remember getting in the transportation van without assistance, so I'm quietly looking forward to this week. The doctors still say that most people don't see much difference while they are here, but I definitely did last year, so I'm excited and hopeful this time as well.

Hasta el martes!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slow, Relaxing Sunday

Not really much to report for today. It was a nice, slow Panamanian Sunday. We went to worship this morning at the Crossroads church - sang Santo, Santo, Santo (that's Holy, Holy, Holy for you who aren't bilingual). After church we went to Napoli's restaurant to eat. We ate there last year with Keith and Wilma, and that was Jean's only "must do" for the whole trip. She wanted to eat at Napoli's sometime! It is a good place to eat - very popular here as we could tell from the crowd.

After eating we stopped at Super Kosher, one of the nearby supermarkets. We have Super 99 and Super Kosher within walking distance so that is nice. This area of the city, Punta Pacifica, is a big Jewish area and this Super Kosher is their supermarket. Of course they let us non-Jews shop there too because they like our money also.

Once we came back to the apartment, I did watch a little March Madness basketball, but it's just not quite the same or as enjoyable, watching on a 22 inch, non-flat screen, non-HD, Spanish-speaking TV - makes for good reading though. I finished my second book today, The Accountant - the story of Pablo Escobar written by his brother Roberto who was the accountant in their cartel business. The unbelievable amount of cash, the quantity of corruption, the number and types of killings, the schemes they thought up for protection - all of that was mindboggling. Graham and Clark had read this book and had given it to me, saying "you need to read this story." So I did, and it definitely held your attention - I kept thinking "one day you're going to reap what you sow", and sure enough he does. He is killed at the age of 44, probably the richest man in the world, running for his life the last several years, can't live with or hardly see his own family, can't trust anyone - sounds great doesn't it!

I begin the second week of treatments tomorrow with PT in the morning and Injection in the afternoon. It will be a fast week for us with treatments on M-W-F and coming home on Saturday.

See you soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life Lesson from Pete

One thing I had been looking forward to when I came to Panama was catching up on some reading. I was given 4 or 5 really good books for Christmas and hadn't been able to start any of them. So coming here with some downtime and Spanish speaking TV, I knew I would get some good reading in.

On Monday I began Pistol, the story of Pistol Pete, and finished it on Friday. Growing up in the 1970's you had to be a Pistol Pete fan. He truly was ahead of his time, and I'm still amazed at his stats. Let these sink in - in college at LSU:
Soph year - 43.8 pt avg
Junior year - 44.2 pt avg
Senior year - 44.5 pt avg
And all of that was done without a 3 pt shot - if they would have had the 3 pt line, he would have probably averaged over 50 points a game for 3 seasons!
But his scoring isn't even the part that mesmerized you - he was simply amazing with the ball - dribbling and passing. Those no-look passes behind his back and between his legs were incredible. I remember watching him on TV and just waiting for one of those passes.

He scored 69 points in one game while in college and 68 points in one game as a pro. He was Elvis-like to the fans, and arenas were filled when he was in town. Even with all of this success and fame, he reveals in his book that he was still an unfulfilled person - he was always under pressure to perform and felt like he had to score 50 or 60 points every night - never felt satisfied because he had to do it again and again. As great as he was at basketball, he finally realized basketball couldn't give his life fulfillment or meaning.

After retiring after only 10 years in the NBA, he was depressed and still searching. He had tried many things, especially booze, to give him a reason for living, but it wasn't until he found Jesus that he finally found joy and peace. Thankfully his last few years he was a devout Christian and a great father and a wonderful husband - those roles gave him more peace and fulfillment than he ever received from basketball - that's true for a guy who averaged 44 points a game! (Pete died at the young age of 40 while playing a friendly game of basketball with Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family - how ironic but how fitting.)

It's hard to realize that truth about what gives us fulfillment when we are in the middle of the adrenaline rush or in the midst of the rat race, which we all find ourselves in at times. Pete was probably bigger in his game than most of us are in ours, and this God-breathed message was true for him, so it is probably true for us - think on that!

Men, in honor of Pistol Pete, tomorrow put on a pair of droopy socks and some tight shorts and then go hug your wife and kids and tell them all that you love them! (You can try the dribble between your legs later.)

USA / PANAMA - very Similar yet very Different!

We had only PT today, so it was a good day to finally get out. We haven't been out much other than to the grocery store and the clinic. We called Luis, our taxi driver friend from last year who speaks English and who is very knowledgeable about Panama. We wanted him to take us to Old Panama - that's a different area than Casco Viejo (which means "old city"). This Old Panama is where the city was before Henry Morgan, the English pirate, came in and burned everything in 1671 - the ruins are still there along with a market where you can buy hand-crafted Panamanian items made by the Kuna indians.

While we were driving through the city going to the area, there were so many things that were just like the USA - $3 gas, Tanning Salons, those squiggly air-up figures trying to get your attention, ads on the streets using flashy women also trying to get your attention, 24 hour Supermarkets, and big, fancy malls.

Yet right along side those familiar sights were things indigenous to Panama - Red Devil buses fumigating while delivering, street-side fruit stands feeding passers-by and insects alike, motorcycles zipping up between cars where there was absolutely no room, 20-inch iguanas using the same sidewalk as you at the market, and Jack & Jean getting their picture made along side San Jose, the patron saint of the handcrafts (Jack will be carving trinkets and Jean stitching purses before they return home!)

You can pick out the pictures below that go with this story. Enjoy!

Pictures - match with story above

Thursday, March 17, 2011

WARNING - Not for Everyone!

You may not want to watch this video or let your children watch it - lock up the men and children. I'm not trying to startle any one, but so many of you have asked me, "What are the treatments like? What do they do to you?"

Well, I thought I would show you a video of exactly what they do. If you don't like shots or needles, then just don't watch it.

There are 5 steps each time:
Cover (that's the yellow film)
Deaden (local anesthesia)
Insert the longer needle
Inject the stem cells (You hear her ask me about accepting the cells - they have to get your permission each time. Not likely you would change your mind at that stage of the game!)

I really like my little doctor, Dr. Herrero, who gives me these injections. Listen to her cute Spanish accent when she says, " Take a deep breath - Local anesthesia."

This is all there is to it - when this is over, you go home and lie flat for 3 - 4 hours.

Today I got the Trifecta - Injection in the back, IV in the arm, and booster shot in the leg. So I should sleep well tonight.

Hasta manana!

Trial Run on Video Download

I've been wondering about sending you guys some video - I know that sounds easy but trust me, it's not - too many parameters to follow. But this is my latest trial run and I believe it's working. This is the view outside our apartment from our balcony. You can see all the new buildings (including Donald's) and the Pacific Ocean and that little island with the house on it.

Now that I know how to send video, I will give you some more later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Currency, Cars, and Cantaloupes

It's been a slow day so I picked out these 3 things in Panama to report on.

The Economy here in Panama is not feeling any downturn - it's rockin' and rolling. They are still building everywhere in the city, and every new building is taller than the existing ones. (As you can see from these pictures) People are working and every building seems like it is full so they just build more. And believe me they go to their malls as much as Texans do. The people are working and spending down here.

And of course that means they are driving as well. Even though I did remember how crazy the traffic and driving was, it's simply not believable until you see it! I am amazed every day when we get out. It would be like driving in Dallas with no rules. You can turn right or left from any lane any time, no stop signs or signals at intersections, simply beep your horn to let people know you are entering the street or their space, only thing you really stop for are people walking across any street at any time. Driving is basically a game of chicken testing who will really take a spot or right of way. And remember you're doing this in Dallas, not just Small-Town USA. What is truly incredible is that it actually works! In Dallas there would be so many wrecks and lawsuits that we would all have to be insurance agents and lawyers.

Lastly I want to report on the fruit. Not sure if they grow much fruit down here, but they have plenty of it at supermarkets and street-side vendors. Here's my report card on it:
Apples - A-
Grapes - B-
Plums - F (may be a bad batch or poor time of year but they are BAD)
Nectarines - D
Pineapples - A
Oranges - A+ (these delicious oranges have a USA sticker on them)
Cantaloupes - A

So I guess your takeaway from today is: If you come to Panama you can get a job, find plenty of good fruit, and be in great shape from walking instead of driving (or remember Rule #2 if taking a taxi).

Injection #2 tomorrow - more fresh, active stem cells.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stem Cell Primer - NBA Style

Thought I might give you a layman's (coach's) view of stem cells. This info may not be medically accurate, but it might give you a little better insight into what we are trying to do down here.

All of us have millions of stem cells in our body working every day. That God-given process is how you grow new skin after a cut or heal up from a sprain or bruise. These stem cells work in your body to heal us and keep us healthy. Everyone has a different amount and a different strength of stem cells. Some are just born with a larger, more active "bank account" of these healing cells - that's why some can live an unhealthy lifestyle and yet stay healthy and live for many years. For example, George Burns worked and played right up to his death at age 100 while living a somewhat unhealthy lifestyle - most of us would not live to 100 living like George. He definitely had a large, active supply of stem cells.

As we age our stem cell count and effectiveness decreases (unless you are one of those with a big "bank account"), so as a result of that decrease, we don't fight off diseases and illnesses like we once did. So you may be thinking, "Why would you get some of your own stem cells injected back into your body?" (As I did after they did lipo on me and harvested my own stem cells from my fat tissue.) That's a good question.

Your stem cells that have been "tied up" in your fat tissue haven't been "working" through out your body. They have been "resting" and staying potent in your fat tissue, so when they are extracted, they are "rested" with "good legs" and ready to enter "the game" - kind of like reserves coming off the bench, but these guys aren't "bench-warmers", they are as good as the starters! It's like the original Dream Team at the '92 Olympics - when Bird, Jordan, Magic and Ewing got tired, Barkley, Robinson, Drexler, and Stockton would come in. So these stem cells coming in from my fat tissue are like Barkely & Stockton coming in the game! Not bad.

The doctors are also injecting me with donated, cord blood stem cells because those cells are really young and active. In our NBA analogy, it would be like getting new faces on the team. As good as Bird and Magic were, they couldn't win the Gold medal still today, so putting LeBron, Kobe, and D-Wade in the game is very effective.

So today I had my first spinal injection. These spinal injections are always stem cells from donated cord blood. So today I got literally millions of new cells injected into my spinal fluid to go to work through out my body trying to heal the damage that MS has done to me.

That is a coach's view of what the doctors here hope is happening with these stem cell treatments. So after my injection today, I had millions of little LeBron and Kobe healing cells enter my body - it's Showtime!

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Monday

It was probably not as exciting as First Monday in Canton, but it was my first Monday to my second round of stem cells, so it was still exciting for me. My initial doctor visit was the only thing on the agenda, but I got a little bonus. When I went to the clinic, Dr. Paz explained to me what we would be doing on this trip - 5 spinal injections and 2 IV infusions - but he also said he was going to give me 5 stem cell booster shots, and they gave me one of those today. They have discovered that your stem cells work harder after these boosters, so they have started using them with some patients on a trial basis. I was glad to be in the trial group. I told him "you can try anything on me that you think might work. I don't have too much to lose."

I have my first PT visit and first spinal injection tomorrow so it will be a full day - just full in knowing my time will be on a schedule most of the day. The longest part will be the lying flat for 3 - 4 hours after the injection. I have my iPod, thanks to Clark from last year, so I have songs and books to listen to again this year.

Not much more to tell you for today. I did think I would show you that Donald Trump has been busy working on his Trump building here in Panama City. You remember his building is the sail-shaped condo in the pictures - here it is now in March 2011 and in June 2010. I know you will sleep better now, knowing big Donald is doing more than that lousy apprentice show.

Buenas noches!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All Is Good

Well, we (Jack, Jean, and myself) made it to Panama City fine on Saturday evening. All went well, even with the anxiousness of only a 40 minute change of planes at Houston International airport - everything worked out fine. It reminded me of our 2001 football season and Coach Boyd saying "Everything is falling into place!" Of course that was usually after they had found out Denard just passed Spanish or Jarvis did make it to the bus to Texas Stadium but hadn't told me any of that.

Once our plane landed everything seemed very familar - from Victor picking us up at the airport, seeing the beautiful skyline of Panama City, having the same doorman at the apartment, coming into the same apartment with the same great view of the Pacific, and even smelling the same scent of the apartment building (not a bad smell, just a distinct one). We felt right at home, very comfortable.

This morning (Sunday) we wanted to go back to the Crossroads Bible Church so we got up with that plan. Once we were dressed, ready, and down at the street, I made a big mistake. I violated Rule #2 in the Rules of Life. Just FYI, Rule #1 in the Rules of Life is: When playing pickup basketball, NEVER choose someone wearing jeans - long ones or cut-offs! It's simply true so don't forget it. But Rule #2 in the Rules of Life, which I violated today, is: When in Panama, NEVER wave down a taxi with it's windows down! I knew better but I did it. It means that taxi doesn't have A/C and you need A/C all of the time in Panama. Sorry Jack & Jean - my bad!

But we did make it to worship at the Crossroads church (just had the sweaty, wind-blown look) and truly enjoyed it again. More familarity - got to see Keith, whose daughter is Dr. Gorman in Waxahachie. His sweet wife, Wilma, wasn't feeling well so we didn't get to see her - maybe next Sunday because we plan on returning. The singing in English and Spanish was really good again.

Monday will be my first trip to the stem cell clinic. No injections on Monday, just the initial doctor visit. Physical therapy and injections begin on Tuesday. I am ready for both.

Thank you for your prayers for a safe trip (I know that is why everything fell into place) and for good results with the stem cells. As I said last June, I want God to work through these stem cells just as He worked through the mud on the blind man's eyes and the muddy water of the river Jordan on the leprosy of Naaman - not just to help me get my legs working right again but so I may help others find a new and effective treatment to their disabilities.

Hasta mañana!(my Spanish is coming back too)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Get Your Mum - Homecoming is One Week Away

I leave for my second trip to Panama for stem cell treatments in one week - I'm really looking forward to the trip - a chance to see good friends again and a chance to gain some more improvements with this battle with MS. After spending a month there last June, we obviously got to know everyone quite well, and since coming home they have continually called and emailed to check up on me. So going back feels a little like a homecoming. I always dreaded Homecoming in football, so this may be my first non-anxiety homecoming - no dance, no mums, no distractions - that's my kind of Homecoming!

I will definitely miss everyone here, especially my new grandbaby - Gunner. He's only one week old and will be one month old when I get back - maybe he won't be walking & talking already, and I will still have some holding & rocking time. That's the reason Kathy is not going with me - she will stay and help Zac & Stephanie & Gunner when she can. Jack & Jean are going with me, and they are seasoned vets to this Panamanian travel since they came the final two weeks last year. I'm hoping Jean finds some more of those giant shrimp that she bought last year - only 2 dollars for 12 of those monsters- much better bang for your buck than those monkeys on Monkey Island!

Well, I posted today mainly to get back on the site and see if I remembered how it all worked, so I guess we are all set for the trip and the blog. Stay tuned - I'll be in touch!