Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

March 9, 2008–Imagine If…

How do I feel now?

As I roll down the street in my wheelchair with Tucker by my side, or if I’m sitting in a public place, people from the community who are interested in following my story inevitably stop me mid-stride, or mid-sentence and ask about my progress.   

“Amanda, aren’t you walking yet?”  is a common question…or someone else might ask,

“So, I’ve heard you’ve had more improvement.  What are you feeling now?”

I welcome these comments because it means that people are curious.  I don’t see these questions as nosy or prying, rather I embrace the inquisitive mindedness from others.  I have learned that being a pioneer of sorts invites a level of responsibility to show up for those who believe and support my journey every miniscule step of my way.

Sometimes I struggle with my response to different individuals.  Sometimes I so badly wish I could rise up out of my wheelchair, walk, and “prove” to the world what is possible…but I realize that time is on my side.  I am in no hurry.  I understand that if I am choosing to take part in a revolutionary moment in the history of humanity, I first need to allow my body time to transform before the world pays attention.

Two metaphorical visuals are important to help me complete my journey:  the egg and the butterfly.  The egg symbolizes my baby Human Embryonic Stem Cells, new beginnings, and new life.  The metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly represents my body.  What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.  My life right now is a crisp new beginning and I have a blessed lease on life.  I am the caterpillar awakening from its cocoon with fresh new wings that will help me fly.I have been picturing these two images vividly in my mind over the past few months. 

By happenstance Emily Hightower, my yoga teacher who is so in tune with my journey, presented me with a butterfly painting with the word BEGIN imprinted in bold letters above the butterfly.  The painting was accompanied by a small card which read:

“Dear Amanda ~ I thought of you every day that you were in India and the egg you gave me from your last trip rests in an auspicious place in my studio.  One thing that I learned while you were gone blew me away, and when I would see the gorgeous egg I would think of this and send you immediate prayers.  The lesson was from a biologist who taught it to a friend at a river workshop.  Did you know that when a caterpillar goes into the cocoon, it doesn’t just grow pretty new wings on its former caterpillar body?  It actually turns into a SOUP of cells…YES-A SOUPY MIXTURE OF CELLS THAT REORGANIZE THEMSELVES into the brand new form of a butterfly!  My instant connection for you is that everything you’re doing:  the stem cells, the bike, physical therapy, and yoga are all part of you reorganizing on a cellular level.  And meditation is where you enter the SOUP within which the new patterns can integrate and assemble to your intentions. Thank you for participating so fully on this journey. You inspire and bring light to my life. 

Love, Em

So, let me provide you with a small slice of how I feel, of what this journey has done for my mind and body, and of what it’s like to witness my body coming to life again after fifteen and a half years of paralysis.  This is what it’s like to transform and become a soupy mixture of cells that are reorganizing themselves so I can become a butterfly.

Imagine if…

As you sit behind the soft glow of your computer screen, imagine if your legs all of a sudden went completely numb.   All sensation and movement is lost.  You cannot feel the cool touch of your hand as you brush the soft hairs on the tops of your thighs.  You cannot feel your cheeks pressuring the cushion beneath you.  Your limbs are lifeless.  You cannot flex your muscles.  Your toes do not wiggle.  Not even a tingle is felt.  You sit motionless.  It is as though your legs are not connected to your upper half.  Like a tender green bough of a tree that has wilted after a harsh frost, your legs become flaccid with life sucked out of them.  As much as you try to will your legs to move, to fire a muscle, or to flicker a ligament into action…there is nothing.  With all of your might, your mind cannot prompt your limbs to come alive.  Sit for a moment.  Feel it.  Be it.  You are paralyzed…and there is nothing you can do.

Imagine if you felt this numbness…lifelessness…and nothingness for more than a moment?  Imagine if your paralysis lasted for five minutes, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year…or sixteen years

February 27th signified the defining moment that left me paralyzed sixteen years ago.  Life moved on.  With time and learning how to adjust in the real world, I slowly re-entered back into the mainstream.  Life was viewed from a different perspective.  My wheelchair made me four-foot-something tall and looking up at nostrils became the norm.  I found myself wishing:  If only the world was flat and paved with smooth linoleum.  Simple tasks like pushing up a hill, driving a car, or reaching for orange juice and Horizon Half & Half on the top shelf at the grocery store became a grudge.  I had to not only learn how to ask for help, but feel comfortable with asking too. 

Although my legs were connected to me, they remained splotchy purple, lifeless, and cold to touch.  A small cut on my foot would take forever to heal due to poor circulation.  My female sexuality had been robbed from me.  Although I exuded femininity, sexuality and intimacy was different and more benign than anything.  I could no longer get in touch with my full womanly self.  Everything became numb…even my psyche.  A massage would feel oh soooooo good….if only I could feel!  I had to re-train how to feel with my mind.  I learned to feel from within so that the slightest touch became sensual again.  Waves washing over my legs and torso on the beach brought the earthly life back into touch.  Sifting sand through my fingertips and delicately cascading fine granules over my skin allowed my mind to remember the tingles of sensuality.  My legs displayed goose-bumps for proof.  Yes, even my legs that had been numb to touch actually “felt”.  They were alive.  When I touched my legs I felt God inside me.  With my mind I learned how to feel a gentle stroke so it resonated deeply within my being, transporting me to another realm beyond the physical.  This became almost more sensual than anything I had ever experienced…it was the touch of the Divine that gave me the freedom to explore new possibilities.

Although I ached for what was, I was a survivor.  My patience became my greatest virtue.  Although this trait didn’t come easily at first, I now have an enormous capacity to accept what is.  This is how my body is now.  I have the determination to beat the odds, to put on a brave face, and get on with my life by living it to the fullest the best way I know how.  I am a warrior of light who is loved and embraced.  I accept each challenge as an opportunity to transform myself.

Despite my paralysis, I still believe in the impossible.  While seemingly unfathomable, somehow I hold the belief that God builds a golden pathway with my own footsteps. 

A tiny droplet becomes a stream, and as it flows it gathers its strength from the other rivers it stumbles upon, negotiating obstacles along its way.  The river never loses its vision of the vast and unlimited:  the sea.  And nor does the caterpillar lose sight of its absolute-a butterfly. 

Eight months ago I had the opportunity to infuse my paralyzed body with LIFE-with Human Embryonic Stem Cells!  At that time, my immense curiosity left me wondering:  What if this medical miracle could literally awaken what has been asleep for fifteen and a half years?  What if? 

As I enter into my ninth month after my first stem cell injection on June 25, 2007 I imagine my baby human embryonic stem cells gestating in my body.  Complete spinal cord injuries typically do not show any progress, especially after fifteen years of static paralysis.  Initially I thought anything would be miraculous…just one percent!  I am already defying the odds.  I now have new muscle power in my legs, my pelvis, my bladder and bowels are coming alive, and I have new sensations.

I am constantly feeling little electrical currents zapping through my thighs and down into my toes.  After fifteen years I am feeling deep sensations.  I was able to feel my boyfriend rubbing the underside of my foot for the first time since the age of twenty-four…and I can feel tingly excitement in my genitals that has been dormant for so long.  I feel like I am twenty again.  An excitement like nothing else I have ever experienced envelopes my entire being.  My body is coming alive.  With the dawn of each new day my muscles begin to fire, one miniscule flicker at a time.  My bum begins to ache from sitting in my wheelchair for hours on end.  I have a thirst, a hunger, a deep yearning for more.  What was put on hold for so many years is almost reachable.  Hope is restored and is back into my vocabulary.  I will walk again…I believe it is possible.  I can dream it, taste it, smell it, and feel every new movement and sensation in my body so I can genuinely believe it.  I am living proof.  I have been injected with the Kundalini fire of human life-Human Embryonic Stem Cells.  It is a gift from the Divine.  It is life giving life.

This is how I feel.  This is how I wake each precious morning.  And this is how I feel when I stretch my body out between my sheets and rest my head on my pillow each blessed night.  I have never felt more alive…yet, I realize that I have one of the greatest challenges of my life ahead me.  This challenge is to walk again.  I am on a journey of awakening, of keeping my faith, and believing what is possible.  I am walking my golden pathway, one baby step at a time.  I am becoming my butterfly.


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