We made it to the airport at 4:00 AM sharp. Check in went smoothly. Security opened the gates a little early for us, good thing they did, it was kind of
hectic. We packaged the meds in the original containers and put them into quart-sized Zip-Loc bags as was suggested. We did not pack any liquids in our
carry-on, anything over 3 ounces is not allowed. Let me stop here, I say we did not pack any liquids except for the 5 twenty ounce water bottles that I put in
at the last minute. Can you say idiot? We produced the proper I.D. when asked, took off our shoes, dotted every i and crossed every t. They put Michael
through the wringer, though. They did everything except a body cavity search. I guess he looked like a threat to the safety of the passengers. Anyway, we
made it through and climbed on board. There is a wheelchair called a straightback. It is a small wheelchair that will fit in the aisles of an aircraft. All it
takes is for someone to load him into it and then unload him into his seat on the plane. It actually went pretty smoothly. I thought we would hold up the
flight, but we didn't, the ground crew did. They were still loading baggage twenty minutes after we were supposed to take off. Michael became very alert
and active when we were at altitude. My first thought was that he could not clear the pressure on his eardrums and this confused him. My second thought
was that he had developed a DVT (blood clot) even though I had started him on baby aspirin to thin his blood a week before. Whatever it was, ativan helped
When we hit Memphis, the ground crew did not roll out the gate and the pilot had to call for a supervisor, so we had to sit on the plane a while. A
gentleman by the name of Sky was touched by Michael's plight and donated to our fund. The flight crew was great, they made everything happen so that
we made it to our next flight, barely. This flight was also delayed, but we made it to Detroit. Six people on this flight were waiting for wheelchairs to de-
board the plane.
We made it off of the plane and just as we approached gate A 48, the counter guy announced that it was the final boarding call for NW flight 11 for Tokyo, (
that would be us). After waiting for awhile, we finally got to board. After all the rushing, this flight was behind schedule as well. We were seated on row 21
which is just behind the "Lavatory", that's airplane talk for "Bathroom". These were not bad seats because Michael had some room to spread his legs
out. As we were loading him into his seat, the guy behind us asked if we needed help, which was unusual, most people just watched us struggle. This guy
turned out to be Dave Parsons who was kind enough to post on the message board and let people know that we were doing OK.
The crew in Tokyo were very friendly. They had his wheelchair at the gate even though we had it checked through to Beijing. I'm not sure if they were
afraid of hurting Michael or just did not know what to do, but they did not assist us in moving him from the straightback to his chair. Once we made the
transfer, things went well. The Japanese NW rep led us by the crowded security check and held our hands through the entire airport. I was singled out for
the more intimate security check, imagine that.
The flight to Beijing went well with, but Michael was really squirming. The Chinese Airline rep was fantastic. She walked us through baggage claim,
immigration, customs and contacted the hotel that we were going to. The hotel had hard beds, but at this point we could have slept on anything; we were
The next morning, on to Hangzhou. Grace from Beike Biotech met us at the airport and took us to the hospital. The room is nice and the staff is second to
none. They are helpful and seem to be very interested in foreigners. Michael has had blood and urine taken, a CT scan, and an ECG. He was also
evaluated by a physical therapist. He will start acupuncture tomorrow and stem cells on Monday.
The trip was long, but thanks to the wonderful people along the way, it wasn't that bad. I want to thank all of you for keeping up with us and supporting us
Have you ever packed for a six week trip with a handicapped child to a foreign country? This is a first for us. Usually when I travel, I cram my clothes into a
suitcase and am out the door; not this time. This trip has required some planning and some serious packing. Michael has one huge suitcase for just his
supplies, one for his clothes, a carry-on consisting of formula and a wheelchair to boot.
We will arrive at the airport at 4:00 AM and I will be wired from lack of sleep and the anticipation of a really long flight. I just hope this doesn't affect my
normally sunny disposition (those of you that know me can see the humor in this).
We found out that since we are now going to Hangzhou and will be staying in the Hospital instead of an apartment. Staying in a hospital sucks but it will not
be a picnic for Michael either. This will be his third hospital stay since his drowning; Pensacola, Atlanta, now Hangzhou.
I will try to update one more time before we leave.
Check out: www.pray4samantha.com
Thanks Brandino, Dean, Becky, and Mary.
Colleen, Michael's wheelchair lady, came to school on Friday to see what needed to be done with his chair to make it fit him better. It is going to require
some major adjustments; his hips were 12 inches wide, now they measure 17 inches and he is 4 inches taller than he was first fitted for the chair.
Kim and Lisa, the therapists at school, said that Michael's AFOs (splints that help prevent his feet from becoming deformed), and his hand splints need to
be adjusted. Bryan at Hanger Prostethics saw him on Saturday. He adjusted his AFO's, but we are holding off on new stuff until we return from China.
Michael has been vocal these days, maybe he knows that he is going on a long trip and is not looking forward to the flight. I have been vocal these days, I
know that I am not looking forward to the flight.
Tim and family (www.pray4tori.com) are going to be arriving in China on January 11th, just days after we return home. Who knows, our paths may cross.
Michael slept well through the night and woke up at about 4 AM. He now weighs 152 pounds; that is a gain of over 30 pounds since February. He is as
solid as a rock.
When you travel with a handicapped person, you are the first one on the plane and the last one off. We have 35 minutes to catch our connecting flight in
Memphis; that is not much time. We will have to wait until everyone else gets off the plane, wait for someone to bring us a wheelchair, load him into the
chair, then make it to the next plane, which of course will be at the farthest concourse. We simply will not have time. Our back-up plan is to carry a rolling
walker that will fold up and fit under the seat. We will use it to get him off of the plane without assistance. We will not be the last one's off.
We are waiting to do any home modifications until we return from China because we may not need them. We're going for our miracle and we won't be
back until we get it.
Thank you Carol A. and Koo, and of course, Vince and Sue. Kinda rhymes, doesn't it?
In addition to receiving umbilical cord stem cells, Michael will be receiving nerve growth factors (NGF). I was excited about the stem cells, now I am just as
excited by NGF. Here's some info.
After the fetal stage of life, we cannot -- normally -- produce new cells in the central nervous system, including the brain, to replace nerve cells that are
lost to injury, disease or aging processes. Bioengineers at Cornell University have demonstrated a system for transplanting clusters of brain cells,
together with controlled-release microcapsules of protein,nerve growth factor, to enable cell differentiation and growth
Nerve growth factor is a naturally-occurring human immune cell product (or cytokine) that plays a major role in the regrowth of damaged nerves within
the human body. NGF is critical for the survival and maintenance of sympathetic and sensory neurons.
The body has a variety of natural ways to resist nerve cell regeneration or transplantation. For example, the adult brain produces molecules that inhibit
cell migration and the growth of axons (the part of the nerve cell that carries the nerve impulse) that could connect nerve cells, while scars that form on
the glial (or connecting) cells after brain injuries also inhibit the elongation of axons. Neurotrophins, such as nerve growth factor, can overcome some of
these inhibitions to nerve cell differentiation and circuitization.
Unfortunately, nerve growth factor is too large a molecule to cross from the blood stream into the brain. Finding a solution to this drug delivery problem
has been a major challenge for medical researchers. The Alzheimer’s Research Center, has shown that certain proteins, when administered intranasally
as nose drops, can enter the brain directly without ever entering the blood. This is possible because the brain sends nerves into the nasal cavity to sense
odors, and thus there is a direct pathway into the brain along these nerves.
When nerve growth factor was administered as nose drops, it was found that it too could enter the brain by this olfactory route. This is especially
exciting since Italian researchers have shown very recently that decreasing the level of nerve growth factor in mice causes the mice to develop
Alzheimer's symptoms and pathology as they age. More importantly, intranasal nerve growth factor largely reversed the brain degeneration in these
animals with Alzheimer's pathology.
Recently we have also demonstrated that another type of nerve growth factor called insulin-like growth factor-1 can also be delivered to the brain
following intranasal administration. This growth factor has potential as a treatment not only for Alzheimer's disease, but also for stroke and head injury.
Studies in animal models of stroke show that intranasal treatment with this growth factor dramatically reduces brain damage and improves neurologic
We have had people donate for our trip and it has helped tremendously; thank you.
Michael is doing well. His mood seems to be good. His wheelchair was adjusted at school and they recommended that he get a new one since he has
grown so much. I talked to Colleen, our wheelchair lady, and she said that she will take a look at it on Friday. Wouldn't it be great if he didn't need the chair
when we get back from China?
We received our visas yesterday. The paperwork is all in order for our trip. 14 days to go.
One of Michael's classmates passed away this weekend; she was 17 years old. It did not draw much attention as it would in a regular school. Special
needs children statistically have a shorter life span than "normal" kids. She may not have been able to speak or walk, but she still had personality. There
is nothing more sad than the death of a child. However, there is no need for wheelchairs in heaven, Lizzie can finally walk on her own.
November 13, 2006
A slight change in our travel plans. We were going to Shenzhen, now we are going to Hangzhou. The slight inconvenience will be well worth it, here's why:
This hospital specializes in children and the doctors are excellent. We have hired two pediatric physicians and two Neurologists specializing in children.
An added bonus is that three out of four of the doctors speak fluent English. There are also 8 nurses which have been placed with our staff. These
Registered Nurses and doctors have all been hand picked by Beike’s CEO Dr. Hu. In addition we have hired 6 pediatric rehabilitation specialists to work
with our children.
We went to the airport and talked to the security personnel to make sure there would be no delays. The departure from Okaloosa County Airport should go
smoothly. The transfer at Memphis will probably be a little more difficult, there is not much time in-between flights. We have a plan to make it a little
easier; I will tell you more about that later.
November 10, 2006
Michael was examined by his pediatrician, Dr. Krist, today and all went well. He received his flu shot as well as a hepatitis injection. He is as healthy as a
horse and almost as big as one. The nurse's first words when she saw Michael was " Boy, he has grown! "
We will be leaving on November 28th on our trip. Michael will probably have his first injection by December 1st. I would rather jab a stick in my eye than
make this long trip, but the Chinese Miracle awaits us.
We will go to the airport tomorrow to touch base with Northwest Airlines and the security people concerning our situation. We do not want anything to
prevent us from making this trip.
November 6, 2006
Going to China for stem cell treatment is not going to be a lot of fun. It would be much easier to go to Mexico, The Dominican Republic, or Costa Rica. It
would be cheaper, the travel time would be less, and we would only miss a week of work. We would not need passports or visas. However, the reason
that we are going to China is they offer the highest quality care and stem cells. This will not be a vacation, we will not be going to Disneyland or Sea World
(yes, they have these attractions in China) or eating at fancy restaurants. We won't be out sight seeing or playing tourist. We will be there for one reason
only and that is to give Michael a chance to have some sort of life. It is going to be hard to leave our jobs for 5 weeks, that is a long time. There are no
guarantees about anything. We are risking it all, I am aware of that. It is not a tough decision to make; Michael always has and always will come first. This
is the only shot that he will have at recovery, we can only afford to do this once.
Thanks to all of you for stopping by.
November 2, 2006
Today Michael will see Dr. Renfroe to get his baclofen pump refilled and adjusted if necessary. He will also receive botox injections in his arms and hands
to help relieve the tightness.
We finally booked our flights from Beijing to Shenzhen. We received our invitation letters and need to get our Visas. That should take care of all the
paperwork that we need for travel. Next week Michael will get a flu and hepatitis injection for our trip to China; don't need the boy getting sick.
I will keep a very detailed log on Michael's progress as it occurs. I will include many pictures and videos for comparison. Remember, he is getting
umbilical cord stem cells and not embryonic. I did not choose cord cells over embryonic based on ethical or religious issues; the decision was based
purely on scientific data. This sums it up: Experts acknowledge that embryonic stem (ES) cells are unsafe for direct medical uses. In general their
problems arise from a basic cause—ES cells are designed to function in embryos, not in adult (postnatal) tissues. Their genetic programming doesn’t
work in adults; nor can they properly sense or respond to local signals in adult tissues. But since they’re programmed to grow, if they’re not rejected ES
cells can grow out of control into clumps of random cells. These non-cancerous, but often fatal tumors are called teratomas.
I was looking at my passport and noticed that I had arrived in Taiwan on June 7, 2003, two years to the day before Michael's drowning. Kinda scary.
Thanks to all of you for stopping by.