Adventures in stem cell based regenerative medicine—Part 3: Bone marrow/blood draw, re-injection

This appointment was the “big day” and consisted of 2 separate appointments: One to suck out bone marrow and blood, and the next to inject the solution created from it back into my right shoulder. It was not a fun day.

For the first appointment I got to go through 6 bone marrow aspirations to draw a total of 90cc of bone marrow, intended to extract at least 300 million stem cells.  The bone marrow was taken from the iliac crest. I got to lay face down on a table. They first numbed up my hips/butt, and then basically drilled into the iliac crest to suck out the marrow.

 The pain wasn’t bad but it was a bit unnerving. The drill noise certainly doesn’t put your mind at ease. It feels a bit like someone screwing something into your bones. This part didn’t really hurt because your back side is pretty numbed up. The ‘suction’ part is a rather uncomfortable but tolerable.

The whole process, from prep to finish, took about an hour. Then they patched up my new butt holes and sent me to get some blood sucked out of my arms. The blood draws are standard blood draws (1 from each arm) but they take a lot of blood: a total of 144.5 cc’s in this case. I think there were about 17 vials when it was all done.

A snag is hit

The final part of this stage came 4 hours later, at which point they inject the liquid solution of marrow-platelet voodoo into my shoulder’s targeted “problem areas”. For me, this meant about 5-6 different injections.

This particular appointment was unfortunately marred by lateness. My appointment was scheduled for 2pm (a time I selected specifically so we wouldn’t have to return home in rush hour traffic). Unfortunately the office was running very late at this point, and they weren’t particularly communicative about just how late. It was 4pm before I finally got in for the injection.

For an office with very expensive late cancellation fees ($150) and no-show fees ($300), you’d think they should compensate in kind for severe tardiness of this kind. My driver had other things to do than wait all day, and now we would be forced to drive home in rush hour traffic. And bear in mind the office mandates having a driver (and not a cab or car service).

Dr. Attaman immediately apologized for the delay, and offered to refund me some of the cost of the procedure as well as give another month’s supply of their various supplements.

(I wasn’t all that concerned about it. Truth is, I just wanted to get through the procedure and get home. But they did end up refunding me $150 and send me home with more supplements.)

Good news: I have great marrow/blood

Eventually, I was up. I changed into a gown and was led to a table. I took a deep breathe, trying to mentally prepare for yet more injections. After so many I confess I was starting to get apprehensive about them. Shoulder injections are deep and can be pretty painful, even with numbing medicine. (Heck, I’m still somewhat dreading the final phase of blood draws and injections coming in a couple days.)

“We got close to 500 million stem cells from you,” Dr. Attaman tells me. “That is really great. We like to get at least 300 million,” Dr. Attaman tells me.

I laid down on the table, right shoulder exposed from the gown toga-style. A nurse begins applying a cold alcohol solution. I take a deep breath again, trying to keep my body relaxed.

This time around, Dr. Attaman would administer a nerve block to minimize the pain. Prior to the nerve block, he administered several small shots of numbing compound.

The numbing compound made my whole arm a bit clumsy for the next several hours. Some of the injections still hurt a bit, but less so than the round delivered in Phase 1.

At this point, I lost track of all the injections. Some still hurt a bit, but the numbing medication and nerve block took care of a lot of the pain. He had so many stem cells he even use some in areas he hadn’t previously intended to use them – – no sense in wasting them after all!

Back at home

When all was said and done, I got home around 6:30pm or later. My shoulder was very sore, particularly for the first couple days. I probably should have gotten some prescription pain pills. I ended up using some Tylenol with Codeine and Percoset at the lowest possible doses, and they worked well enough. By day 3 the worst of the pain was gone. My arm is still sore and far from “100%”, but it feels more like just a relatively ordinary sore shoulder now.

Just in time for me to go back in a couple days for a final round of injections. I may take the doc up on the prescription painkillers this time though.


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