Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

Saturday, November 8th–Smooth Sailing

“God has a plan for our life and that’s all we need to know.”



I am reminded to trust and keep my faith as I read this quote that is hung on the wall of the older hospital in Gataum Nagar.  I am lying horizontally face up on a long skinny gurney with an IV overhead and a hollow cannula inserted into the vein of my left forearm.  I am dressed in a blue checkered hospital gown and my hair is pulled back in a pony tail.  I keep faith in my heart as I am wheeled into the narrow old lift.  Michele calls out, “Good luck Mand.  Visualize golden light.  You’ll be fine.  I love you.” The metal accordion doors close behind me and I stare at a fluorescent bulb in the ceiling.  I am surrounded by four blue angels adorned in face masks, head gear, and gowns.  Their dark almond-shaped eyes give me comfort and Opi cracks a few jokes.  The lift stalls and falls short of the second floor by a few inches.


“Niche (down) “Chelo (Let’s Go)”, Opi commands to the others.  These are the two Hindi words I recognize followed by a garble of other nonsensical utterings as my bed is guided out of the lift toward the operating theater.  A blast of cool air flushes my body and the doors of the OT open with a green light.  Never in my life would I have dreamed that I’d be undergoing spinal procedures with embryonic stem cells in an Indian operating theater on the other side of the world.  Then again, never in my life (pre-wheelchair) sixteen years ago could I have even imagined my life as a paralyzed woman.  I ponder these thoughts in a quick flash, as I repeat over in my mind:  God has a plan for me and that’s all I need to know.  I also remind myself that my thoughts, whether positive or negative will affect future.  My anxiety levels increase.  I’ve just been informed that Dr. Ashish is performing a double spinal procedure this afternoon:  a Lumbar Puncture combined with an Epidural Catheter procedure.  Yes, two in the one hit!  Breathe Amanda, Breathe.  I tell myself.  Be calm.  The last lumbar puncture was a synch.  No sweat.  I won’t get sick.  No migraine.  No vomiting.  I CAN do this.  I am in the best hands–the hands of Dr. Ashish.  I surrender.


“Ek, Do, Teen.”  I chime in on the count of three as the four blue angels hoist my body from the gurney on to the operating table.  With hands extended up and open to the air, Dr. Ashish enters the OT wearing a green gown.  My body is turned over on the left side in the tightest fetal position.  Everything is sterile.  Clap. Clap. On go Dr. Ashish’s gloves.  Flash. On go the surgical lights overhead, and the OM symbol glows golden above my body.  Only in Dr. Ashish’s operating theater would the divine symbol of life be cast in gold light on the ceiling.  I am immediately centered.


I begin to visualize my body encapsulated in a golden egg of energetic light.  As I feel a sharp pinprick puncture my skin numbing the spinal area, I bring Dr. Ashish into my golden aura.  I can feel the dull pressure of the catheter being inserted into my lower back. Later I learn that the catheter reached from L3 vertebra to T11 (the site of my injury).  Icy-cold stem cells bleed into my abdomen.  For the first time I feel the cool sensation.  It’s different than in the past.  My ability to feel subtleties of new sensations is heightened.  Dr. Ashish then presses higher up the spinal processes.  He numbs the area again and with exact precision punctures my spinal cord with a super fine needle at the T11/12 level, directly into the tiny cavity that is damaged in my spinal cord.  I stay with my visual of golden light radiating throughout my spine down to my toes, and up into my arms and crown.  I am Light itself…the golden light of life.  I am a Warrior of Light.  I feel pressure in my sinuses.  I want to equalize and blow bubbles as if I’m submerged beneath the water’s surface.


“Excellent Amanda.  We’re finished.  Absolutely perfect.  Couldn’t have been better.  Now we’re going to turn you on to your back.  Ready?”


“Ek. Do. Teen.”  The table is tipped with my head pointing downhill.  I am on a Disneyland ride.  The pressure in my head increases.  Dr. Ashish proceeds to inject several more syringes filled with baby embryonic stem cells through the portal into the catheter, and into the outer sheath of my spinal cord.  Pain permeates my entire abdomen and hips, trickling down into my legs.  Electrical tingles race to my toes.  My legs are on fire with life, yet they feel like a heavy bronze sculpture pinned to the table.  I am in my body and out of my body, feeling the energetic layers of my ethereal self pulse in the room.  I feel my heart pulse in my throat.  I breathe through it.  Sister Ruth gently strokes the back of my hand and my hair in a calming and loving manner.  I am soothed.  The table is tilted right and left as more stem cells are injected into the catheter.  Pain.  Excruciating pain still shoots down my hips into my legs.  The pain begins to dissipate and the procedure is over.  It hasn’t been more than half an hour and I have endured two complex procedures.  In hindsight and in the grand scheme of my wheelchair life filled with numerous surgeries, this one was a breeze. 


“Amanda, wiggle your toes for me,” asks Dr. Ashish.  


“Do it.  Yes, do it.  The left foot first.  Yes, there is movement.  A slight flicker.  Now try the right foot.  Yes, I see a little movement.  It’s working.  Let’s make this our focus.  You will wiggle your toes more.  Deal?” 


I obey trying my hardest to wiggle my toes.  I have to believe him.  Are they wiggling?  I feel it inside but is it actually visible?  Can I do this on my own?  Yes, I know I can. I’ve witnessed it many times but it’s still hard for me to fathom that I am able to do this after 16 years of paralysis.  Dr. Ashish is nothing but POSITIVE, POSITIVE, POSITIVE.  I love him.


Back in the tiny hospital room, my sister Michele has been sending me energetic light.  She too visualized golden light along with pink rose light.  I am instructed to lay on my back with my head downhill and the bed raised up on two bricks for five hours.  Michele places a rose quartz crystal over my bladder.  Within half an hour I desperately need to pee and my beautiful caregiver steps up to the bat.  It’s not easy peeing flat on my back with my head downhill.  I’ve become a master at this trick. 


I have been instructed to turn on to one side at 7 p.m. and remain lying down without lifting my head until the next morning.  Still no migraine, still no vomiting!  Yahoo.  I’m getting through this one. 


The night was sleepless but smooth.  I sailed through my most difficult procedure yet.  My body is getting tuned into these stem cells and Dr. Ashish has refined his technique.  The epidural catheter remained in my back for three days.  My cord was flooded with stem cells twice a day and it is now the weekend.  I am fully depleted with fatigue as the cells go to work in my body.  It is Life bringing me Life.  Therapy on Saturday morning with Chavi was super light.  My head buzzed and the room spun even with the slightest sit-up. 


One noticeable change from this procedure is my ability to void my bladder and empty my bowels with less strain and effort.  For four days my bladder has pulsated with new life. These are simple pleasures that fill me with gratitude and make these trips to India so incredibly worthwhile.  


Goodbye Michele—my Beautiful Big Sister.


Michele has gone and my little blue hospital room feels empty but her loving energy still permeates the air.  We woke to our alarm at 4:15 am and our faithful English speaking Sikh taxi driver, Harvinder waited to take her to the airport.  It was a tearful goodbye.  I haven’t seen my sister in five years so we rekindled our love and friendship these past two weeks.  Michele has unstoppable energy.  It’s go, go, go.  Thanks to Kasie’s caregiver Sonia whom Michele befriended and practiced morning yoga with in the park, followed by coffee and an almond croissant at Costa Cafe.  Michele fitted into Delhi life like a true local.  She embraced India with big arms extended out, unafraid, and open to the richness, soulfulness, holiness, and craziness.  Michele’s one word to describe India is EXQUISITE.  Exquisite it is.  We were reminded how alike we are, loving the same foods, clothes, colors, people, trinkets, and beliefs.  For the first nine years of my life I shared a room with Michele where we grew up in Papua New Guinea.  Thirty-one years later in a different hemisphere we were sharing a room again as adults.  Sisters share a bond of childhood that is never lost. Michele has always been my big sister, who for all of my childhood I looked up to.  I copied her in most things.  While we are different, we are the same.  She is a beautiful giving soul and she gave selflessly to me.  Through the sanctity of sisterhood, Michele gave to me in more ways than I can express.  Thank you Michele for taking two weeks off work to be with me in Delhi surrounding me with your healing light and love.  We have been through so much in our lives and I love you deeply.  I am missing you already.


“Thanks so much for such an enjoyable stay in India, it was great to share some time with you, We will have to do this more often.  Keep strong Mand, you are doing such a good job – I love you.  Visualize golden and violet light surrounding your area of injury and your spinal cord, rose quartz for your bladder and bowel, and lots of happy smiling faces on those stem cells, rest and recover, your body is going thru an amazing time.  Keep well, love and lots of sunshine.”  Michele


Namaste, Amanda xoxo



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