CTCI is awaiting formal approval from the Ministry of Health to infuse stem cells to non- citizens in Israel, therefore the cells must be infused out of the country. We were notified mid-December that Janice was scheduled for her stem cell infusion January 14, 2010. We were elated! We met another gal in Tel Aviv and I couldn’t wait to hear if she got the same news. She did and we were to meet her again in Athens. Then through the MS Forum we learned about another person that was scheduled for the same day and one that was scheduled for Jan. 12, two days prior to us.
We scheduled our flight on Continental Airlines. This time it is going to be Cheryl, Janice and I. Cheryl studied the subway system in Athens and learned all the stops including the one for the hotel, and the hospital. We reserved a triple room in the Airotle Alexandros, which was recommended to us by the travel agent referred by Orit at CTCI. The hotel was quite nice and included breakfast.
Our flight was from Las Vegas to Houston, then on to Paris. We had an 11.5 hour layover in Paris, so we took the subway and toured Paris for the day. It was cold but so beautiful. (Cheryl remembered the subway system from the last time she was there making transportation easy for us.) From Paris we went on Aegean Airlines to Athens Greece. Arriving late at night, the subway was closed but the buses were still running so we hopped on the bus and it took us right to our hotel. This was about a 45 minute bus ride.
Cheryl and I toured Athens the next day while Janice slept. Jan. 14 was the big event. On procedure day, Janice was allowed a light breakfast, so in the restaurant this morning we met a person whom we had talked with on the forum and on the phone. She had received her stem cells on Tuesday and was already headed home and she looked great. We arrived at the hospital, went to the 2nd floor as instructed, and told the security guard who we were. She led us through secured doors to a nurse’s station. The nurses took us to a room and told Janice to pick her bed. Samira from CTCI was there to greet us and told us that the stem cells were being thawed and would be ready in about two hours. There were a total of four people to receive stem cells on this day. We were told they infuse four people on Tuesdays and four on Thursdays. She also said a team of four come together from CTCI inTel Aviv which included Ilan CFO, Samira BSN and two PhD’s that stay with the stem cells in the lab.
Janice had an IV started in her arm, and blood was drawn from this. The neurologist explained the procedure to Janice. Pretty straight forward, the stem cells were injected intrathecally, which took about 2-3 minutes, then she also injected stem cells IV. The entire process took about five minutes. Janice received 61.23 million stem cells IT and 26.33 million IV. Now she is put into the trendelenberg position for the next 3 hours. This was easy for Janice and she was feeling great. At the four hour point she was told it was okay to get up, so she went to the bathroom. Big mistake, as she returned to bed and this was the beginning of a headache that was to stay for the next two days.
Each of the stem cell recipients had a family member stay the night. This is highly recommended, as it is difficult for them to tend to their own needs during the night. We were given a private nurse for the four to share. Her name was Georgia, and she worked hard to make the girls as comfortable as possible. I brought a thermometer, and was so glad I did, because I was able to monitor Janice with this. We also had a little pharmacy of pain and headache medicines, which Janice took liberally but to no avail. We finally decided that perhaps no medicine was best since it didn’t work anyway. I slept on two chairs and a stool all pushed together (Not comfy!) and Cheryl went back to the hotel, returning with fruit for us in the morning.
The next day, a doctor (we presume) came in and asked Janice if she had a headache. Janice had wet cloths on her head and thought this person was going to help her with these so she said yes. This person took Janice’s head and thrust it to her chest, then said “yes, you have a headache.” Apparently this is the way they check for meningitis in Greece.
For some reason Janice’s headache went away briefly and we were able to leave the hospital. Cheryl hailed us a taxi, not an easy task, and we made it back to the hotel just in time for the headache to resume. Nausea and vomiting hit as we were leaving the hospital, but we were so anxious to get out of there, we just dealt with it. This too was to stay with us for 2-3 days.
Janice spent Friday and Saturday in the hotel. Cheryl and I went out for short times, leaving Ryan to babysit – on Skype. If you haven’t discovered Skype, check it out. It is so neat. Janice and Ryan spent hours talking and Ryan even put a video on in his living room, put the computer in front of it and Janice was able to watch a movie like that. Cheryl and I walked in to find Janice sleeping, computer in bed, movie playing.
Seriously though, if you are going to Athens for stem cells, make sure you have the mobile phone number provided to you by CTCI. If you need help call them. That is what they are there for.
Sunday, Cheryl and I took Janice out for a little adventure. We decided a tram ride would be good for her. There is a tram that goes along the coast. Her headache subsided so we went out. About an hour into the trip she started feeling sick, so we got off, Janice expelled the contents of her stomach and we returned to the hotel. She and Ryan skyped that afternoon while Cheryl and I went out again.
Monday we left for home. We were to take Aegean Airlines to Heathrow in London. Upon or arrival in London we discovered our Continental flight had left us. The next flight was Tuesday. Aegean Airlines so kindly offered us 3 hotel rooms, 2 meals each and transfer passes to and from the airport. Since we arrived around noon-ish, we still had plenty of the day left, so off we go, Cheryl and I toured London. Again Cheryl’s expertise with subways shone. Janice was feeling better, but was not in the mood for sight-seeing so she stayed at the hotel, took two baths, and made a facial mask with fruit she had gathered at the buffet. (Give her lemons, she will make lemonade.)
Our book of choice for this adventure was 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. It is about a Baptist pastor that had a life after death experience and has vivid details about heaven. I also read Modoc, by Ralph Helfer, a true story about a boy and his elephant, another must read.
Janice was feeling fine on Monday. Perhaps a slight headache, but really minor, no nausea this day, but still feeling back pressure and stiffness. No fever.
Thank you to all for the support and prayers we have received. We have the best family in the world. It is so comforting to have the enormous amount of family and friends praying for Janice. Your continued thoughts and prayers are very much appreciated. Again, God has a plan and our faith remains unwavering.