AWAKENINGS

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

8.11.07

Thank Goodness I have a US Passport! When the toilet overflowed this morning my purse was
sitting beneath the basin next to the loo. I can‘t help beginning this installment with another
reference to the golden throne…except my throne is far from golden. I woke to a flood in the
bathroom. Every important document I own is soaked through (birth certificate, travel itinerary,
cash in three currencies, business cards etc.) with the exception of my US Passport, which was
damp but not saturated…and the photograph still looks like me! My Aussie passport is a paper
mache mulch of red, blue, and black ink stamps. Only I will ever know that I‘ve traveled to the
ends of the earth on that passport—Australia, Europe, Iceland, Chile, Argentina, Antarctica, and
India. Dale, Gabrielle, CP, Jane, and Jennifer—the stress with obtaining my US passport the day
prior to my departure from the US was worth it! Like a relay baton, Dale received the passport
via express mail and handed it to Gabrielle who safely passed it on to me in Delhi. I am a proud
US Citizen with my very own US passport that is now only slightly damaged…in fact I kinda
like the worn look…and boy oh boy am I ready to come home with it!
Afraid of arriving with prickly legs for my morning physical therapy session, I thought I‘d better
shave. I always shave my legs for Chavi and I wasn‘t about to let a small flood stop me. With
one wheel propped over the tiled ledge of the shower, I worked up a lather on my left leg. The
phone rang. I dropped the soap, razor and hand held shower, which snaked around the whole
bathroom, spraying me and everything that wasn‘t yet wet. I snatched at the mobile with soapy
fingers, ―Hello?‖
―Amanda? What‘s wrong?‖
―Just a moment Mum…**@#! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Shower…and *&$*@# Toilet…. And
*@#&* INDIA!!!!!!!! Can I call you back?‖
I then hung up the phone (sorry Mum…you bore the brunt of my frustration, but only you and
Gab would truly empathize with the irony of things constantly breaking in India and my absurd
bathroom situation).
After I blow-dried most of my documents with my mini-sized travel hair dryer, I proceeded to
get dressed and noticed my face covered in red pimple-like lumps. My knees and thighs have also broken out in a rash. My first thought, Dale arrives in less than 48 hours and he’ll freak out
at the sight of me, turn around and leave! Oh My G-d! The day before I had an attack of nausea
and light-headedness, which we think was related to an allergic reaction to a medicine I was
taking for a ̳female thing‘ totally unrelated to my stem cell treatment. We are assuming the rash
is also a reaction.
So I am sitting alone in my little apartment room, covered in red dots that aren‘t the painted-on
kind, with the power off anxiously waiting for the lights and air conditioning to fire up for the
umpteenth time; and fingers crossed, the internet connection will be restored. Internet has been
down since Tuesday morning (almost five days) so I have truly been alone this week with zero
contact abroad. I‘ve learned to type my emails as word documents so that when email pops up I
rapidly cut, paste and hit send holding my breath that it sails off into cyber space without a hitch.
And life goes on in Delhi. I‘ve learned to be patient, take a deep breath…and wait. Indians are
good at waiting, so I‘m joining in, embracing waiting…and consciously choosing not to fight the
inevitable waiting game. Instead I‘ve used my time wisely to meditate, breathe, read, and
become an expert at Mahjong Titans. I‘ve also been very disciplined having completed my
second rewrite of my book proposal and synopsis…in preparation for the Maui Writer‘s
Conference August 29-September 4. I have three editors/agents interested in seeing my
manuscript so I have been diligently tapping away refining and reworking chapters.
Regardless of whether my red lumps fade or not, I will make one last trip to the market
tomorrow to purchase groceries and fresh flowers for Dale‘s visit. He will bring his beautiful
light and fill me with the colors of the rainbow (stem cells get ready!). He arrives at 6:15 a.m.
Monday morning and I will order a taxi in my best Hindi praying the driver shows up at 5:45
a.m. (rather than p.m.). After Dale‘s arrival and a long overdue hug and kiss , we‘ll head
directly to the new hospital for therapy with Chavi (and yes, with clean shaven legs :). We‘ll
have a light therapy session as we will then shuttle over to the old hospital for a two-day spinal
cord procedure. Dale will be thrown into the thick of my treatment program and I can‘t wait to
share the whole experience with him.
Monday‘s procedure will involve inserting another catheter into the outer sheath of my spinal
cord. The catheter will remain taped to my back until Wednesday morning and I will receive another gazillion embryonic stem cells. I am excited to have this procedure again as I saw
radical results with my first pee after the last three-day procedure.
I continue to feel strong and the lower half of my body is firing up with life. Every exercise I
execute with Chavi each morning feels stronger. I have more control with my leg movements
and I am learning to isolate different muscles. I can raise my knees up in a bent position from
lying straight on the bed and amazingly, my ability to crawl backwards is consistent and powered
by new muscles that have been asleep for fifteen years. With the slight use of my hip flexors,
since my injury I have always been able to balance on my hands and knees and crawl forwards,
but never backwards. I am astounded by my strength and new abilities. Although I am not
kicking yet in the literal sense, I get a kick out of examining my limbs as they reclaim life. My
hamstring on the left leg works when I least expect it, and occasionally in front of an audience.
Call it performance anxiety, but I figure that muscle has been hibernating for such a long time, it
will take a little while…and some more ̳waiting‘ to bring it back to life in the normal sense.
Three other Australian patients and comrades will also leave Delhi next weekend. Luke, a
handsome young twenty-something paraplegic will fly out with his dad, Glenn; Martin, the blind
diabetic who is regaining his sight and beginning to see colors will leave with his wife and
mother-in-law (Martin is the most courageous of us all and has spent most of his time in India
alone); and Andrew, the tattooed Bandito with a heart of gold will depart with his gorgeous wife
Sarah and their loving seven-year old daughter, Jorja (Jorja‘s cuddles have been a Godsend—she
is full of love). All three patients have shown signs of improvement. Luke is a water ski
champion in Australia and was injured four years ago in a high speed fall. He has shown results
of new sensations in his leg and is able to feel a light touch on his skin. I catch him pulling at his
hairy legs reveling in his new tickly sensations.
Each day I hear languages and accents spoken from all over the world—Iranian, Saudi Arabian,
Egyptian, Korean, Chinese, Australian, and Indian. I have been the token patient from the
US…and already new patients have signed up from America. My hope and personal mission is
to create more awareness in the US so that we can all have the opportunity to visit Dr. Shroff and
be a part of her revolutionary treatment. New patients will replace us and Dr. Shroff‘s new
hospital facility in Green Park will open its doors and fill its beds for the first time on Monday,
August 20th. All patients will be accommodated in her new hospital from this date forward. Congratulations Dr. Shroff on such a fine-looking, clean, and aesthetically beautiful building.
You are phenomenally phenomenal (and I will continue to do my best to get you on Oprah!).
As the minutes and seconds tick by…I hold on to my vision of standing tall slow dancing with
Dale, heart to heart, eye to eye. For now, I am equally content with him wrapping my legs
around his waist and being twirled around the room.
We will fly home a week from today—Saturday, August 18th—and my miraculous journey will
come to a close. I will leave with a heavy heart bidding a grateful farewell to my Indian family
of doctors, nurses, therapists, and patients. As I fly out from Delhi‘s Ghandi International
Airport, I will know full well that I will be returning within two or three months for a ̳top-up‘
treatment and some more hard work.
On Sunday, August 19th I will see Tucker and give him the biggest cuddle ever. I will shop for
groceries in a clean spacious store (I never thought I‘d get so excited about grocery shopping);
and I will eat crunchy salad greens, wild salmon, and Swiss chard for dinner with a huge drink of
fresh water. I will pee on my own loo and use soft toilet paper. I will brush my teeth with water
from the faucet and I will have a long piping hot bubble bath with lavender oil and candles
burning. I will sleep in my soft bed with feather pillows with my head on Dale‘s chest and we
will wake to freshly brewed French Roast coffee with a splash of half and half. The river will be
roaring and I will be home. Aaaaah… I will close my eyes with these thoughts as I breathe the
Life Force into my legs and countdown each sleep until next Saturday.
Namaste as I watch the sun go down in a lavender and saffron sky, Amanda xoxoxoxo
P.S. It‘s now 7:10 p.m., the power is on…but still no internet. Still waiting…………….
Sunday morning…8:07 a.m. and I am still waiting…red lumps and rash still visible and Dale has
boarded his flight. He woke me with an early phone call. In my morning fog, he sounded
excited but tired having worked all day prior to flying. It is real. He is coming to India. I am
excited…and nervous. I feel like I felt when we had our first date.
The sky is overcast and a breeze is blowing the branches of the neem tree outside my window. A
family of crows squawk perched in a nest amongst the branches. I think the little chicks learned
to fly this week. I love this tree. It is old and wise with a thick gnarled trunk yet its leaves look delicate and fresh. I feast my eyes on the green. It gives life to crows, pigeons, squirrels, a
peacock, and a monkey…and it has brought me serenity these past two months. The neem tree is
my friend and brings me comfort. Together we have watched many hours pass by. And I am
still waiting…

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