Since May 21st when I had the actual stem cell treatment. Well, before that, actually.
And May 31st was the last time I was in Philly. That was the date of my post-treatment, the PRP (Plasma Rich Platelets) treatment meant to whirr those stem cells into action.
Since then, my knee has felt better and better. I've been walking, swimming, biking, and more walking!
I've 'tested' my knee--pushed on it in ways that would have brought instant pain before. I've felt so good when on the treadmill that I was way too close to breaking into a run. I didn't. Only 'cuz I wasn't supposed to, and I'm all about doing what the doctor says.
(For all the info on this stem cell procedure, visit this page of my blog to see all my back posts leading up to this point.)
I was feeling so tremendously great, that I just couldn't wait to get to Philly on August 15th, when I'd find out if the stem cell procedure worked...or not.
But first, bear with me. I have a story to tell before I can give you the outcome.
The only thing left before my trip to Philly was an event called Kingdom Bound. It's a 4-day Christian festival held at Darien Lake Theme Park in Darien Center, NY. It's what I've volunteered at for the last 6 years, this year making it my 7th. It's the place where I originally hurt my knee last year. Yup. KB, as we all call it.
I think I'll start calling it "oK, B careful!!"
Interpreting at KB 2012 for Casting Crowns.
Wednesday, the last day of the festival, arrived. In only one week, I'd be in Philly to learn how well my knee had healed. I was stoked.
The afternoon rolled around, and I was hanging out at our campsite. I call it Terp Tent Town. We are blessed to have several RVs that all of the interpreters can stay in, but since there are too many of us, we set up our tents all around the RVs. It's cozy, nice, fun with all the families living together for 4 days.
I was just standing on the lawn, talking to another interpreter, enjoying the last afternoon. When.....
A child, an adorable child, was playing ball with a friend. Lightly throwing the foamy but somewhat hard ball back and forth. Just having fun.
And for some unexplainable reason....the kid CHUCKED it....at MY HEAD!
I saw it coming. I ducked. FAST. A quick lunge movement, something the doctor warned me not to do. In a split second, I felt....yup, you guessed it....pain. No. NOT from the ball. The ball JUST grazed my hair ever so slightly. It was.... my KNEE.
I stood up, in shock and still unable to talk because it hurt. The other interpreter didn't seem to notice my silence and kept talking. But I didn't hear a thing she said, because inside, I was talking to myself:
"I can'tttttt....believe....that JUST happened!! That hurts sooooo much!! It was feeling sooo good!!! I KNOW that kid didn't mean to aim the ball at me! I. am. going. to. S.T.R.A.N.G.L.E. that child!!!!"
I was almost ready to leap past the other interpreter and go for it, but I knew the headline in the paper the next day wouldn't look so good.....
"MAD WOMAN KILLS HER FRIEND'S CHILD AT CHRISTIAN FESTIVAL!"
So I smiled. At the child. I carried on and tried to forget what happened. I prayed that 3 months of waiting hadn't been undone with just one fast toss of a ball.
By Tuesday the 14th, my knee was feeling almost back to normal, except there was still a lingering tender and sore spot near the original damaged meniscus. I left in the afternoon for Philly, stopped on the way to pick up a used weaving loom (I got hooked when I tried my hand at it at our locally famous county fair), then stayed overnight at a hotel.
I arrived for my appointment at 11:30am with nothing in my stomach--just too nervous to eat.
I got on the table, the goo went onto my knee, and Dr. Shiple applied the ultrasound. I watched the monitor to see if I could see the deep tear that had been there before.
My heart leapt.....the deep tear appeared to be GONE!!! Ohh HALLELUJAH!!!
Of course, I'm no doctor, so I couldn't tell what else was going on. I asked if I could see a 'before' picture with the ones we were seeing now. Unfortunately, the old ultrasound machine had died since the last time I'd been there. All the files were buried in stacks and stacks of CDs, which hadn't been gone thru yet to figure out where my photos were. I'm thinking of volunteering to go down and go thru them myself so I can have my before pic--just kidding. Well, sort of ;-)
I DO have my MRI photos on my computer, but it just doesn't show the same thing as the ultrasound. I'm going to send a thumb drive down to Philly so they can get me one of the pics from this last time, as I forgot to ask for one while I was there (duh).
Anyway, there's more to this than the original tear being healed. Here's what Dr. Shiple said:
1. Everything looked a LOT better than last time. He was pleased!! That makes ME pleased!!
2. He couldn't see a deep tear in the meniscus.
3. The meniscus was still slightly herniated, but not anywhere near what it was 3 months ago.
4. The ligament seemed much healed.
5. From what I understand, the damage from the arthritis he was concerned about last time looked fine now.
6. There was hardly any fluid in the knee, which is a great thing.
Knowing that I had just had the 'accident' the week before, here's what he found to be the damage from that new injury:
1. There was a slight tear in the top of the meniscus, but it was of the stable kind that he said was nothing to worry about.
2. There was some damage to the ligament that attaches the meniscus to the bone. I could actually see it myself when he explained what I was looking at. It wasn't horrid, but it was definitely there. This, he said, is what was causing my new pain and tenderness in that area.
He figured that before this newest event, my healing was about 90-95%. With this newest injury, he estimated it at 85%.
Not bad, in the overall scheme of things!!
Here's what he said concerning how to treat my knee from this point:
- Recent research with stem cells/PRP has shown that it's not necessary to treat the meniscus, but instead treat the accompanying ligament. When the ligament becomes healed, strong and stable, the meniscus will also heal as a result.
- Another PRP treatment was recommended as a result. Now, that would be the same thing as the pre and post treatments I had, NOT the stem cell itself. Thank goodness, because the PRP treatment doesn't cost anywhere near the cost of the stem cell procedure!
- He felt this 3rd PRP would heal the currently damaged ligament, and also help the meniscus at the same time.
Here's a diagram from the Regenexx site showing how the ligaments directly work with and affect the meniscus:
So, I have an appointment once again in Philly to get another PRP treatment on October 12th.
In the meantime, I still can't run. I still have to be careful to not do any exercises that put pressure on the inside of the leg. But, I can bike, walk and swim to my heart's content, with lower resistance. I can't be too unhappy about this, considering that it's only temporary. If I have to be careful now in order that I will be able to have unlimited activity in the long run, I'll accept that wholeheartedly!
I'm still wearing my brace. My knee feels so much more stable with it on, and Dr. Shiple was pleased that I wanted to keep wearing it. He would like to see me wearing the brace in order to keep the joint open, thereby keeping the pressure off the meniscus.
Obviously, wearing the brace doesn't mean I won't get injured (I was wearing it when the ball came at me), but the ladies at Dr. Shiples said I might become their 'poster brace' girl! Apparently I showed quite a bit of enthusiasm over wearing it! Haahaa!
Now, here's the million-dollar question that Dr. Shiple asked me:
"Are you glad you did this procedure?"
To which I said:
Do I think it was worth the money and the travel? YES!!
I'll keep you updated when Oct rolls around. I'm going to have my left knee checked at the same time. I've had a little tenderness/soreness in the same area as my right knee. I'm hoping it's not a torn meniscus, but I'd rather get it checked via ultrasound than going thru an MRI.
Personally, I'm not sure why doctors are still doing MRIs, when ultrasound shows such detail, not to mention that claustrophobic people like me will just about tear the technician's eyes out when being strapped into the MRI bed!
Now, here's something I'll leave you with, something that angered me to new heights.
I asked Dr. Shiple when this procedure would be approved for insurance coverage, and would no longer be considered experimental. Here's what he said:
Apparently, the FDA, along with the drug companies, want to make OUR stem cells....the very stem cells that come from YOUR body and MINE....be considered a DRUG!!
Yup! As it is, the stem cells are taken out, spun in the lab, then put back into our bodies, the very bodies the cells came from.
The FDA argues that when MY stem cells are taken from my body and processed in the lab, they are NO LONGER MY CELLS, BUT A DRUG. A drug that must be SOLD BACK TO THE PHYSICIAN for use in MY BODY, and therefore SOLD BACK TO ME, the very body the cells came from!!!!!
Do you wanna know what would happen as a result???
The stem cell procedure that right now costs $4-5,000, would, if the FDA/drug companies get their way, suddenly cost....are you ready?? .................
Nothing would change in the process either. The only difference would be that the government and the drug companies would take MY stem cells, then SELL them back to me and make LOADS of money!!
And, with a very calm anger in his voice, Dr. Shiple's advice to me was:
CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN.
I will. And I'll also spend my OWN money now, to keep my OWN stem cells and fix my OWN knees before the government gets their hands on them.
And next year, I'm hoping that KB will be injury free; if you happen to go, watch for stray flying foam balls and wet stairs, ok?