Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Knee Results Are In.....drum roll, please....!!

I've waited.
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!!"

Everything was going so well. The only rain that happened was on Sunday afternoon. But it didn't matter. I was careful.....no, beyond careful...going up all the steps that led to the stages I'd be interpreting on. If you remember, that's how I hurt myself last year-slipping on some wet steps at...KB.

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.....

it happened.

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.....


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:

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?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Diary of My Regenexx Knee Stem Cell Procedure in Philly

What follows is a diary of my Regenexx knee procedure. I had the procedure done in Philadelphia, Pa., more specifically at The Center For Sports Medicine in Springfield, Pa, a suburb of Philly. Dr. Shiple's office was the closest location at this time to have the Regenexx procedure done.
I hope this account helps others who might be deciding whether to have this procedure done or not. I've already been back to find out the results, and I'll share that in the next post. Read on if you'd like to find out what the procedure involved!

Friday, May 11th: My father-in-law passed away at 2:33pm. I was blessed to be at his side with the family. However, I knew that I was going to Philadelphia for my pre-treatment on May 15th, so I was nervous that I might miss the funeral. Thankfully, the funeral was planned for the 16th, but I was still nervous how this would all work out!
Monday, May 14th: I went to work as usual, then to the calling hours from 6-9pm. I had planned on leaving for Philly immediately after, but I decided to sleep in my own bed for the night and leave early in the morning.
Tuesday, May 15th: Left for Philly in the morning and arrived 1 hr before my appointment scheduled at 1pm. The drive from Perry, NY is about 5 1/2 hrs, without stopping, via Binghamton/Scranton on the PA Turnpike.

The pre-treatment I had this day was to get the knee prepared for the actual stem cell procedure I was to have the following week. Dr Shiple said the pre-treatment 'wakes up' the knee, so to speak. The treatment is called PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma), and here's what it entailed:

1st- Blood was taken from a vein in my arm. They then spun it down and got the platelets out, mixing it with something else (of which I've forgotten what that something else was--hmm. It was minor, whatever it was--the platelets were the important thing!).
2nd- Dr Shiple then used ultrasound to look at my knee. This is what he found:

  • Significant amounts of fluid from my injury, which he said would have to be drawn out.
  • I had a herniated torn meniscus. My meniscus was not only torn, it was actually popping up out of the cavity in which it was supposed to be sitting.
  • He also discovered that I had badly damaged a ligament in the knee, near the meniscus, 
  • as well as damage done to the bone from arthritis.
3rd- My knee was numbed up. The fluid was drawn out, and Dr Shiple proceeded to inject the platelets into the arthritis area, as well as the meniscus/ligament area. During most of the procedure, I felt no pain. Then suddenly, as I was talking away to the nurse, .....OUCH!!!! A huge sting and some pain, and it was as if I was suddenly hit with laryngitis!! Some more novocaine, and thankfully he was able to finish the procedure without any more pain.
Now, for those of you who say you wouldn't do this procedure since I had this sudden pain: this particular doctor said if I had ANY sort of pain, he'd stop, numb me more or go more slowly, whichever would keep the pain from recurring. This doctor will even numb your arm before taking blood! He's all about making sure you are as comfortable as possible and as pain free as possible during the entire thing!
[You have to remember: traditional surgery involves pain too; yes, you may be knocked out, but when you wake up, you are bound to have some pain. Making a decision as to stem cell or traditional surgery shouldn't be based on the actual procedure itself (and whether you'll be awake, asleep, afraid of needles, etc), but on the longterm--the actual outcome of the procedure and how it will affect the rest of your life (my last post explains this thought process). As an example, you can compare it to eating habits. If you only ate candy all day, every day, simply because you don't like the taste of vegetables and other good-for-you foods, you have the temporary pleasure of a sugar rush. However, the long term effects over a life time and probably a short one at that) would be very obvious: rotten teeth/tooth loss and sickness due to malnutrition are two big ones I can think of, not to mention the high medical costs.]

4th- I was given a script for Tylenol with Codeine, given crutches, and told I could walk on the leg but only slightly touch the ground (no full pressure on the leg for 24 hrs), and also told to use the cruise all the way home, then was sent on my way!
I stopped at a CVS pharmacy down the road, which thankfully had a drive-thru, put in the script, and was told I'd be notified via text on my cell phone when it was ready. The novacaine was wearing off quickly, but it was just a very slight dull ache and seemed completely manageable without medication.

I hadn't eaten, so I went into a Panera Bread right next door and got something to eat. By the time I finished eating, my script was ready.
I left immediately for home, stopping only once on the Turnpike rest stop to use the facilities.
My knee was achy, and although the pain was manageable, I would have rather not been driving. But, it was completely do-able by myself!
I arrived home, and my family was waiting to help me get in the house. I had prepared ahead--had my pjs laid out, meals made ahead, blanket and such brought downstairs, so I just plopped on the couch, realized how much my knee was hurting, but promptly feel asleep without taking anything and slept like a baby that night!
(I had missed all the calling hours for my father-in-law today, which saddened me, as my family told me of all the people who came. I would have loved seeing everyone, but if I had cancelled this pre-treatment, it would mean postponing the entire procedure for at least 3 months or longer. Dr Shiple is one BUSY doctor!).

Wed, May 16th: I woke up pain free! However, my knee was quite stiff and swollen. I had to stay on the crutches today, so off to the 1pm funeral I went, hobbling along. 
Funeral, cemetery, dinner afterward, and by later afternoon, my knee was slightly sore from being stiff, but also from hobbling around. I also had a headache, so I went home and slept for several hours. I felt quite a bit better.

Thursday, May 17th: I was able to ditch the crutches and went to work today. I have to walk quite a bit around school, but I was careful to put my leg up when I could. My knee was still ever so slightly stiff and swollen, but other than that, my day was just as normal as usual. I had a massage and pedi after work, so I was able to relax and put my leg up, which was nice. I started doing my exercises as ordered by the doctor. I was supposed to bend my leg all the way possible to get it moving and flexible. I think it helped to decrease the stiffness.

Friday, May 18th: By today, I was able to bend my leg all the way back at the knee, and felt 100% again. The pain of the torn meniscus was still there, but any pain or stiffness from the procedure was gone!

Sunday, May 20th: Jeff and I left for Philly. We were able to do some sightseeing (Liberty Bell, Freedom Hall, etc), and also got some good food!

My husband, Jeff, standing next to Benjamin Franklin's grave.

Me standing in front of Liberty Bell. I thought I was smiling, but I didn't realize how anxious I was about the knee procedure til I looked at this picture!

I discovered a FAN--TAS--TIC vegan restaurant called Blackbird Pizzeria! It's just a short walk from the Liberty Bell, and if you go, try their Cubano---ohhhh YUMMM!
Jeff got an authentic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich at Geno's. We went back to our hotel room and I tried to sleep!
Monday, May 21th: Jeff and I arrived at Dr Shiple's office in time for my 9am appointment, for the actual stem cell procedure! Here's a step-by-step of what happened:
(If you watch this video, you'll see a patient lying on a table getting the stem cells taken out from their back, then injected into their knee. This is exactly what I experienced. The video also explains some things about the procedure)
  1. Blood was taken from my arm, as last time, and the platelets spun out.
  2. I was put onto the table face down, much like getting a massage. My lower back was numbed, and what is considered the most painful part of the procedure was started: Dr Shiple inserted a longer needle into my iliac cavity (basically, it's the hip bone area closest to the spine) in six different spots. There was slight pressure as the needle was pushed into the bone, then slight pressure as he drew the marrow out, but I had absolutely NO pain, which I was SO thankful for!
  3. He then drew out some fat from my lower back/hip with a very small liposuction needle. I begged him to use a larger one and take more fat off, but he just wouldn't do it (hehehe!). The fat was going to be inserted into my knee, along with the stem cells, in order to hold the herniated meniscus in place.
  4. I was then turned over onto my back while the stem cells and fat were prepared. My knee was well numbed with novocaine, and, using ultrasound, Dr Shiple then injected all the stem cells, platelets and fat back into my knee. He had to inject it into 3 different areas around the knee: the arthritis area, the ligament, and the meniscus. Apparently, the most sensitive vein in our body is located on the  inner side of our knees, because even numbed, I DID have some discomfort when he injected in that area, as before---ouch!!
  5. With all the injections done and bandaids put on, I was fitted with a brace. I again hobbled out of the office on crutches, only this time I was ordered to keep my foot completely off the ground for 48 hrs.

Jeff was now put in charge of driving, as the doctor had warned me ahead of time that I shouldn't attempt driving this time, and that I should get home asap (same as last time). We went to the CVS pharmacy down the road and got a prescription filled for something stronger than the Tylenol 3 I had gotten last time. Jeff also got me something from Panera Bread (I wanted to stay sitting this time!)-- I had been too nervous to eat on this morning, so by now I was ready to get something in my stomach!

Jeff drove me home right away. Since he didn't like going by way of Scranton, he decided to go over to Harrisburg, then up 15 thru Williamsport and on home that way. My husband is not a fan of driving, so he was more comfortable going this route. The only problem is that it took a good hour longer. My knee was hurting a lot, lot, LOT more than last time, and I just wanted to get HOME!!! After only a few hours into our drive home, I was forced to take some Tylenol 3. It helped slightly, but only lasted about 1 hr tops. During that time of slight relief, I somehow managed to hobble into the Starbucks in Williamsport to use the facilities, but that stop, plus a quick one for gas, were the only stops we made, thankfully.

Jeff did great driving, and we finally arrived home early evening (the whole procedure in the office took about 3 hrs), and as before, I had prepared meals, had the sofa and everything I'd need ready. I plopped on the couch, propped up my leg, and couldn't focus on anything except how to get relief for the throbbing pain in my knee!

I was nervous about taking the stronger pain med that was prescribed, so I had tried to get by with only the Tylenol 3. It was only afterward that I realized I should have taken the stronger meds!

I finally fell asleep around 1 in the morning. I woke up around 6am, took another Tylenol 3, then fell back asleep for a while.  When I woke up mid-morning, my pain was gone! Dr. Shiple said it was quite unusual for a person to be pain free less than 24 hrs after the kind of procedure I had. I was grateful I wasn't the norm!

I stayed off my leg for 2 full days (Tues and Wed) as directed. By Tues afternoon, I realized I had developed bad blisters around the bandages that were put on over where each needle had been inserted. I had to leave my brace off a few hours at a time, plus applied some Tea Tree Oil in order to help the skin heal.
Dr Shiple figured it was an allergic reaction due to the combination of the topical antiseptic he used and the bandaids. The antiseptic was not betadine; rather, it was a newer type of antiseptic that doctors feel works better. The bandaids were just normal ones, of which I've never had an allergy. Dr Shiple said for the next time, he'd use betadine so as to avoid this problem in the future.

Wednesday, May 23rd: Noontime marked 48 hrs that I was supposed to be off my leg. By 3pm, I decided to finally ditch the crutches. It felt weird trying to walk after 2 days of not putting my leg down! I didn't stay on my feet for very long, as my knee was still a little stiff and swollen, so I took it easy the rest of the day.
Thursday, May 24th and beyond: I started bending my knee and walking as directed by the doctor. Instead of the usual rest after traditional surgery, this procedure requires the patient to start moving as much as possible. They want the stem cells to know, thru the exercise and movement, as to what they are supposed to do and become (re-grow the meniscus, repair the ligament and bone, etc).

By the end of the week, I was back to normal in every way, except my knee was still slightly stiff and swollen. The swelling was actually a good thing, believe it or not! I was instructed not to take any kind of anti-inflammatory, since they actually want inflammation in the joint! The inflammation brings blood to the area, which aids the stems cells and platelets in the healing process. Our bodies are amazing things in how they work! I'll never look at inflammation as a bad thing again!

The swelling continued for several months, and more so included my foot/ankle. Dr Shiple said this is normal, since gravity is at play here. But again, the sign of swelling was a good thing....it meant there was still inflammation in my knee, and that the stem cells had more of a chance to 'do their thing.'

Wednesday, May 30th: I left for Philly once again and stayed overnight in a hotel in Quakertown, Pa.
Thursday, May 31st:  I walked around downtown Philly a little more in the morning, went to Blackbird Pizzeria again, then off to Dr Shiple's office for my 1pm post-treatment appointment.
By this day, I was feeling great--my knee hadn't been stiff for probably 3 days, the blisters were almost gone from the allergy, and the pain from the meniscus tear didn't seem as bad as before. 

My back, where they took the stem cells, was still tender. That continued to be tender for almost a month after the procedure. It never was painful, nor did it hurt to sit; but it was tender to the touch, which was completely understandable. It was also bruised, along with my knee--also to be expected from such a procedure. The bruising eventually went away and never caused any problems.

My arm had bruised quite badly from the stem cell day procedure, but was because pressure wasn't applied long enough to the vein after they took blood. So for today, they took blood from my other arm. My veins apparently aren't as good as my right arm, as they had to use the ultrasound to get into the vein. Once in, the red stuff flowed well--blood is amazing stuff, I tell ya!

Today's post-treatment procedure was an exact duplicate of my pre-treatment, except he only had to insert the platelets into the outer part of my knee, not the inner part where it hurt so bad last time. I was SO grateful! The post-treatment was necessary as it was sort of like the 'fertilizer' to help the stem cells grow and repair the meniscus and ligament.
He said my knee looked great--the fluid was staying down and everything looked as it should. I was instructed to wear the brace as long as possible, to walk, bike, swim, and just plain move! I had brought my crutches with me, hobbled out after the procedure was done, and drove home.

This time, I wasn't in any real pain, just some slight discomfort, so I took the opportunity to stop at my niece's house near Binghamton, which was on my way home. It was a real treat, as she fed me (she eats the way I do--a higher raw, vegan diet), and I got to spend a few hours with her, her husband, but especially my grand-niece and nephew!

I again had to stay off my leg for 24 hrs, but then I could resume normal activity, and by Saturday, I was walking, cleaning, and doing all my normal activities. The swelling continued (not a bad thing, remember), I did the exercises as recommended by the doctor, and I settled in for the next 2 1/2 months,  praying that I'd get good news on August 15th, when I was due to go back for a checkup.

And that's where I'll leave you for this post. My next post will be the big drum roll with the results, so be sure to tune in!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Easy Peasy Healthy Ice Creamy!

A Facebook friend of mine posted a recipe called Single-Ingredient Ice Cream, and when I saw it, I knew I had to try it as soon as possible!
I've already been freezing bananas for years to use in my regular morning green smoothies. 

It's easy: let your bananas get to that ooo-they're-a-little-too-ripe-to-eat stage (for me, it's the yellow with a few specks of brown, the stage at which my husband believes they are perfect for eating), peel them, break them into small chunks and throw them in a zip-lock freezer bag. Pop them in the freezer, and you can not only use them in smoothies like I do, but you'll have them for banana bread and other desserts, plus this yummy ice cream!

I even re-use the freezer bags. Just keep popping banana chunks in as you get over-ripe bananas, even if it's only one at a time. 

I have frozen UN-peeled bananas; however, you'll need to run the frozen banana under warm water to get the peel off. 
It's such a pain, that you might as well take the extra two minutes (literally, at that) to peel them before freezing, unless....
.....you're running out the door with the risk of missing your flight to Florida, and you suddenly notice too-ripe bananas sitting on the counter. THAT's when you have excuse to throw the bananas in the freezer, even sans the freezer bag ;-) 

And the only time a banana is too brown for freezing is when it starts leaking juice (umm, yeah, gross.). I've frozen them when they are very brown and very soft! The only problem when you wait that long before freezing, is that they are quite dark, and I'm not sure how 'white' and creamy your ice cream will be.
They work just fine in smoothies since you don't see them, but it might be best to save your least ripe frozen bananas for the ice cream.

I made the Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream first. Oooooooo....YUM-eee-licious!!
I didn't use a recipe, and you really can't go wrong without one, since it's so simple.

I use my Vitamix, but many people use their food processor and even prefer it to the Vitamix.

Here's a video showing how to make it in the food processor. I really like this video, as her bananas don't come together like usual, so it shows what can go wrong (although it turned out fine in the end).

My daughter's friend has a Yonana, and she said it worked great. One of the reviews on Amazon for the Yonana said they liked the texture better than a Vitamix and a food processor. If you have made banana ice cream in the Yonana AND the food processor and notice a difference, I'd love to know. Otherwise, I just can't justify buying another kitchen gadget.

Here's what I did:

 I filled my Vitamix with about 3 or so frozen bananas. I added a heaping tablespoonful of Wegman's Organic Creamy P.B., plus about a tablespoon of raw cacao powder (you can use regular unsweetened baking cocoa too, if you don't do the raw cacao powder).
I didn't add any sweetener; the bananas give all the sweetness you need!
You can add more P.B. if you'd like, leave it out, or add other flavorings you'd like, such as a drop of vanilla extract.

I also made Banana-Strawberry today. I did half bananas, half frozen strawberries. I did let them sit out for a few minutes, because I found if I didn't, it would stress my Vitamix and over-heat it.

I added a packet of Stevia sweetener, plus a little agave, just cuz the strawberries aren't quite as sweet.

That container on the Vitamix is the small container, which is only 4 cups. I got not quite 3 cups of ice cream from a rather small amount of bananas and strawberries. Nice.

It was really good, but personally, I'll be making the choco P.B. more often than the strawberry.

If I try any other flavors, I'll be sure to let you know.

Even tho it was over 90 degrees on Memorial Day, it's more like soup weather again. But that Summer heat will come soon enough again, and when it does, I'm gonna make sure I have plenty of frozen bananas on hand to make me some ice cream!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why Regenexx Stem Cell? Cuz I'm a Pioneer (or just plain crazy!)

In my last post, I told the story of how I injured my knee, and how I discovered the Regenexx stem cell procedure.
And I told you that I had a decision to make: go with Regenexx, or re-schedule the traditional surgery.

(At this point, I want to make it clear that I am not getting paid by Regenexx, nor am I trying to promote this procedure as the end-all-be-all. Although, you'll notice I tend to be quite enthusiastic about this. But please understand I realize this procedure can't fix everything. However, I am very hopeful it will fix my injury!
I've had SO many people interested to see how this works for me, that I decided it would be beneficial to blog about it. I am always excited about new technology and discoveries, and if my experience will ultimately help others, then I'd like people to know this is an option.)

So, having said that, let me address each procedure:

Traditional Surgery:

When I inquired of our insurance and what my out-of-pocket expenses would be for traditional surgery, I was told it would be between $3,000-$5,000. That's a lot of money, and it was hard to believe I would pay that much. However, when my husband had to see our family doctor shortly after this, I mentioned the estimate to him. He informed me that he recently had similar knee surgery, and his out-of-pocket cost was $5,000!
The orthopaedic surgeon had also told me that, depending on how much of the meniscus they would have to remove, it would determine how fast the knee would degrade over time from the resulting arthritis. I could be looking at a knee replacement later in life. If a simple surgery would cost me $5,000, how much will a knee replacement cost me in 20 years? Let's not even discuss what it will cost to relieve the arthritic pain with medication after surgery!


When I inquired of the Regenexx procedure, the doctor, Dr. Shiple, of The Center For Sports Medicine, looked at my MRI I had sent, and a phone consultation was set up. He explained to me that I was a perfect candidate for the Regenexx procedure. He walked me through the whole process, explaining the how and the why. He said that, even though he's been doing this procedure successfully for the last three years, it is still considered experimental, and therefore, it is NOT covered under insurance. However, the brace and the crutches I would need would be covered under insurance, but those are a minor expense. My heart was in my chest--it could be anything: $10,000? $50,000? Come on, doc, tell me what it is!
As long as it was a simple meniscus tear repair, my total cost would be: $6,000. I breathed a sigh of relief! Why, you say?? It's $6,000! That's a lot of money too, and as I already mentioned, it's not covered by insurance.
When I heard the amount, I was considering the $6,000 compared to costs in the long run of traditional surgery.
Let me make a comparison list for you:

As for the success rate, Dr Shiple explained that naturally it depends on the extent of the injury/condition.
In my case, the doctor said that he felt the existing arthritic conditions in my knee would contribute to the pain from my torn meniscus. He is therefore treating the arthritis with stem cells. He is also treating a ligament that I apparently damaged when I fell.
The success rate for mild to moderate arthritis is in the 90 percentile. As the arthritis becomes more severe, the success rate goes down accordingly: 80, 70, to 60% for more severe cases.
If my meniscus tear was a simple tear as he originally thought, the success rate is in the 90 percentile.
However, when he had examined me with ultrasound, he found I had a herniated medial torn meniscus  (I'll explain more about this in the next post). The success rate for my particular meniscus injury therefore goes down. As far as I know, the tear itself is still in the 90 percentile success rate. However, the herniation goes down to 75%.
If there is partial success, I have the option to repeat the entire procedure to repair the injury further.

As I considered all of this, I knew what my decision would be, and of course that would be Regenexx!
I had already known that the Lord allowed me to find this procedure, so going ahead with it was an easy decision!
I do have one naysayer. They've said I'm crazy to do such a thing, and that this procedure is 'quackery.'

Yes, this procedure is still experimental; the success rate is not 100%. Am I crazy? Maybe. Instead, I'd like to think I'm a pioneer, one of those willing to take a chance, so that others can benefit from this down the road! Is this procedure quackery? I don't believe it for a minute!

Can I say I'm not scared at all? No! In fact, I do have moments when I'm quite scared! But I have no doubt that God has ordained this path for me. I have no doubt that He allowed me to find out about this procedure just days before I was to have the traditional surgery (I don't believe such a thing can be 'coincidence'. In fact, I don't believe in 'coincidences' at all, but rather that God is in complete control of all our lives!). I take comfort that He is guiding my steps:

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9(NIV)

And also that I need not fear or worry about anything:

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

And so, when I am suddenly overcome by fears of 'what if it doesn't work?' and 'Perhaps I am crazy!', I give my fears to the Only One who can take them away, the Only One who is in control. When I give Him my all my fears, the only thing that's crazy is the amazing peace He gives in return. I'll take that kind of crazy any day!

My next post will be a 'diary' of sorts, chronicling the entire procedure I've undergone thus far, so stay tuned...

The Story of My Knee: A Torn Meniscus and a Prayer

It was a simple yet clear sign that the backstage tech guys had taped to the metal stairs.
I had to walk up and down those stairs several times as I went up on stage that day to interpret. The event was Kingdom Bound, a 4 day Christian festival featuring well-known musical artists and speakers, held annually at Darien Lake Theme Park here in Western NY. Summer of 2011 was my sixth year volunteering there.
I walked up the steps, one at a time, holding onto the railing for dear life as one of the men again cautioned me. I rubbed my sandals on each landing, testing it to see at what degree of ‘slippery’ it was. I remember thinking that ‘Gee, these aren’t slippery at all, but I’ll be careful anyway.’

I had just finished my turn interpreting, and as the stage crew set up for the next band, I waited at the bottom of the stairs for my replacement interpreter to arrive. Before she came however, one of the announcers started speaking. Yikes! I need to get up there, and fast! Without thinking, I rushed up the steps. Half way up, I found out that, indeed, the steps were slippery!
I didn’t actually FALL; if I had video of it, I’m sure it would take a few views to figure out how I did it. Somehow my right foot slipped away from the step, causing me to fling it suddenly forward, missing the step completely, whereupon my shin forcefully hit the step edge. Instant pain and some bleeding ensued as I tried to hurriedly gather myself to limp to the interpreter’s area. I’m pretty sure I heard one of the backstage guys mutter “Like I said, those steps are slippery....”  Yeah. Got it.
Kingdom Bound was held July 31st thru Aug 3rd of that year. I don’t remember which day my stairs acrobatics occurred, but I do know that for the rest of August, I had my leg propped on a chair with a cushion underneath, hoping the swelling in my knee, shin and ankle would subside before I went back to work in September.
That summer I had also started jogging, and despite my gargantuan leg, I still managed to go out and alternate running and walking. Even tho my knee was slightly sore, I really didn’t think I’d hurt it at all; I was convinced that since I had hit my shin, it was ONLY my shin that was injured. Little did I know what I’d done.
The swelling seemed to go away for the most part, and I kept jogging until one day on Columbus Day weekend. I had been out the day before, and although I was getting a little more sore in the knee, I was determined to keep up with the 3 miles I had managed to work up to. I didn’t even get thru 1 mile that day; I turned around and limped home, knowing that SOMETHING was wrong. My knee was h.u.r.t.i.n.g.
I could barely walk after that. It took well into December to heal, and by January, I knew something wasn’t right. I went to the orthopaedic surgeon, had my MRI, and was given the diagnosis: torn medial meniscus. It was the kind that needed surgery. I was told that since there is no blood supply to the meniscus, there is no other alternative but to take out the torn part, smooth things up, and hope for the best after.
I was also told that after surgery, I would have enough of the meniscus gone to create a ‘bone-on-bone’ situation, for which the diagnosis is: pain. Lovely. Surgery to fix the pain, only to result in pain. Alternatives? Not have surgery, and the meniscus will eventually tear completely, causing the knee to lock in excruciating pain, ending me up in emergency surgery. Great. Just what I wanted to hear.

You would have thought they told me I had three weeks to live, because after finding out what was wrong, I left the doctor’s office, got into my Jeep, and just sat there crying! 

I cried to the Lord: “Dear Father, you know that I’ve healed my body in so many ways by eating healthy. I’ve been trying to exercise to lose weight, so I can be as healthy as possible, and be able to do the things you have for me to do. Now I have something that exercise and healthy eating can’t fix, and even surgery won’t truly fix this. The diagnosis is pain, no matter what I do! Lord, I don’t understand! Please, give me peace in this!”
I scheduled the surgery as soon as possible, for Leap Day 2012. I didn't have peace about it, but I figured there was no other choice. Because I had a negative reaction to anesthesia when I was a child, I asked if I could stay awake. I also asked if I could watch the surgery. The Physician’s Assistant had no problem with it, and even encouraged me to look on YouTube to watch medial meniscus surgeries posted there.
I perused the videos one day, preparing for what I’d see of my own surgery. I watched a LOT of the surgeries, so much so that I was sure I could perform the surgery myself. Then, 4 days before my own procedure was to happen, I decided to look on YouTube once more. As I got on, I thought to myself “Why am I checking this again? I already watched MORE than enough of those surgeries!”
I almost didn’t look again, but God’s still, small voice was there, telling me to check one more time.
I clicked around, and opened one particular video. I watched the whole thing, because it pretty much described my situation, as well as what the traditional surgery does to ‘fix’ it. But, at the end, they explained how stem cells from my own body could repair the torn meniscus. The procedure was called Regenexx. What??! An alternative to surgery?!
I was shaking! All I could see was an answer to my tearful plea that day in the Jeep. This HAD to be it! I HAD to check it out, and I pushed aside the fear that was welling up with questions like: How could I afford something like this? What if I did this, and it doesn’t work? Am I CRAZY?? Who am I to try something cutting-edge like this?!
I made a phone call to my orthopaedic surgeon’s physician assistant, who agreed I should check into it. He cancelled my surgery, and I called the closest Regenexx doctor, Dr Shiple in Springfield, PA. (at the time of this writing, there are only nine doctors in the U.S and its territories who are doing this procedure. At the time I called, there were only seven).
I filled out paperwork, sent my MRI to them, and waited to hear if I was a candidate for the procedure.
Then the call came....I was indeed a candidate!
The next question: traditional surgery, or Regenexx? In my next post, I’ll explore why I chose Regenexx.
Stay tuned...