Did you ever have a pet Hamster or Guinea Pig?
You do now.
Yes constant readers, Chuckie is going to be your own personal pet Guinea Pig.
Monday, 17 June, I go in for a nuclear cardiac MRI study. They start an IV, inject me full of invisible man dye, run my ass on the treadmill and then stuff me in the MRI machine and take 3D pictures of my heart. On Friday I go in for a physical and "Randomization". The "Randomization" process decides what happens to the rest of my life. I will either be selected to be in the " USOC Control Group" or in the surgical candidate pool.
In the Control Group, I keep the same electronic diary, which I have been filling out daily for the last 6 months, for another 2 years. That's it. No testing, no procedures, just the Twinkee that sits there and does nothing as an object to compare the active research to.
If I get into the surgical pool, I will immediately have injections of a stem cell stimulating drug injected each day for a total of four (4) days. This wonderful drug is normally given to cancer patients. It stimulates the body to create more stem cells which will be harvested from me in a procedure called Apheresis. The side effects of this drug included nausea, vomiting, joint and muscle pain. On very rare occasions in can cause splenetic rupture resulting in death. So I will probably have flu like symptoms for a week.
On Day five (5) I go to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and they insert a tube into my subclavian vein (under my my collar bone) risking a punctured lung and sure to produce a lot of pain. They will then start the machine and suck my blood out, filter out the platelets and stem cells and return the red blood cells and plasma to my blood stream. Once this is over it's given to a spy like fellow who jumps on a plane and hand carries it to Boston. At Harvard University they will spin it down in a fancy centrifuge that separates the Stem Cells from the other jetsam and the same guy flies it back to Jacksonville the next day.
A day later I check into the hospital research floor, get prepped and wheeled to the Cardiac Cath Suite. During the three hour procedure the surgeons, who I trust completely, will insert a catheter into the femoral artery in my crotch. They will snake it up into the left ventricle of my heart and begin to map the wall thickness of the heart muscle. Once they know the thickness on my heart wall they will insert another catheter and inject 10 locations with my own stem cells. The needle is 2mm long. The idea is to stimulate my heart into growing new arteries to carry blood to the heart muscle and potentially increase my stamina and life span.
When this is over, hopefully, I go back to my room and home in a day or so. They will monitor me for the next two years to see how well I responded to this ground breaking procedure.
Obviously there are a million things that can go wrong here. Some catastrophically. I prefer not to dwell on them. Wifey and I are both aware of the risks and we have chosen to take them freely.
The downside is that this is a double blind clinical trial. Sure the million dollar procedure is all free, but, the surgical candidate pool is split between candidates who get the stem cells and those who get a placebo 2:1. Yup, you heard right. I could go through all this for a 66% chance of getting the life saving Stem Cells. that's a 33% chance of getting saline (salt water) injections. Stem Cells or Placebo injections, the risks remain the same. And the real pisser is, it's a double blind trial. Neither myself or my doctors will know which treatment I get.
Either way, it's going to be an interesting and frightening two weeks. Everyone by now knows of my religious beliefs. For those of you prone to praying I would appreciate it. For those of you who don't have religious tendencies, please remember me by eating copious amounts of Pasta on the Friday nights of 21 and 28 June. My Pastafarian soul thanks you.
I will try and keep this blog updated during the next two weeks. That will obviously depend on how I feel and what the outcomes are.