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From a medical point of view, we are fortunate to be born where and when we are. For example, it is so much easier to take a pill for a headache than it is to try to get rid of the headache. “Wrong” blood that causes your discomfort when putting your arm in a vat full of leeches.

Very few of us reach middle age without some aches and pains. My wife is no exception. A few years ago, when her back pain got unbearable, she had surgery to stabilize things. Her back is now painless although she has the equivalent of a small piece of hardware in her spine.

My wife has had pain in her knee for a long time. We visited an orthopedic surgeon a few months ago and he confirmed that his left knee is, medically speaking, “Pull.” Unfortunately, the factory warranty had long expired.

The surgeon recommended – surprise! – joint replacement surgery. But before he could grab his Sawzall, my wife asked about the possibility of using stem cell therapy to repair her knee.

We were referred to Dr Herman, who has good experience with stem cell therapy. Dr Herman is charming and outgoing. We appreciated her all the more as we learned that both of her parents were veterinarians and also raised beef cattle. It was comforting to exchange “war stories” concerning calf care.

Dr. Herman explained how their FDA approved stem cell therapy works. First, the marrow is obtained from the patient’s bones. Stem cells are separated from the marrow and checked for contamination. The quality and quantity of stem cells are also measured. After these steps are completed, the stem cells are injected into the affected joint.

It would not result in an overnight cure; it could be months before my wife noticed a big difference. But there would also be an extended recovery period if his knee was cut and new machinery installed.

Since stem cell therapy is still considered experimental, our insurance company would not cover it. Fortunately, my wife had a little something on the side. His money, his knee, his choice.

Dr. Herman began the procedure by using ultrasound to locate the best places to pierce and mark them with a sharpie. Then, using techniques perfected by the oil industry, she pierced the iliac crest of my wife’s pelvic bone and extracted a quantity of marrow.

You should not watch YouTube videos of this procedure if you have a weak stomach or pass out at the sight of blood.

My wife is not one of those people. Not only had she watched YouTube videos, but she had also asked Dr Herman if she could see the results of her extraction efforts. Helping to take care of the cows and calves on our dairy farm had prompted my wife to see the kinds of things that might cause others to develop an extreme case of stone marten. My wife said it was interesting to see all these tubes filled with this beef blood colored substance. It didn’t bother her at all that he had just been harvested from his own personal skeleton.

We waited a few hours while the stem cells were separated and subjected to further examination. Finally, the surgical nurse came in and informed us that everything was ready.

My wife followed the nurse out of our recovery room but returned a few minutes later. I assumed something had gone wrong. The opposite was true. Things had gone so well that the infusion of stem cells only required a brief visit to the operating room.

Dr Herman said that my wife’s marrow produced a large amount of stem cells and that they were of high quality as well. This tendency to go beyond must be due to my wife’s German heritage.

After the procedure was over, we just went home with two industrial plasters on my wife’s back and a small one on her knee. The whole experience had been pretty much painless. My wife hadn’t suffered much either, although the next day she reported that her lower back felt like it had been hit by a baseball bat. One would expect as much after a close encounter with a drilling rig.

Now we are waiting and hoping that his stem cells will function with that same German propensity for diligence and surpassing oneself.

My wife chose this option not only to avoid surgery. She also hopes to help advance the field of stem cell therapy and improve the lives of others.

And maybe one day the medical field will discover a treatment that can help middle-aged people remember where they left their keys.

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About Catherine Sturm

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