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Disclaimer: I went through the Integrative Lyme Disease treatment program at Infusio, Frankfurt from the 23rd October to the 3rd of November 2017. During this time, I kept a journal of my experience and I am now sharing this with you here. Please keep in mind that this is my personal experience. The treatments and therapies I had were based on what was best for me as an individual. Therefore, if you have been to Infusio, Frankfurt or are planning to go, your experience may differ from mine.
Wednesday 1st November 2017
The reason I went to Infusio was to get stem cell therapy for Lyme Disease and today was the big day; I’d be receiving my stem cells. The day had a really early start for me as I was first in line for having the stem cell procedure. Dr Bijan had asked us the week before if anyone had any preferences for a time to have their procedure.
No-one seemed keen for an early start (which is fair enough and I’m not a morning person either!). But, I’m the type of person who just likes to get things over and done with. Being first suited me fine and I figured that I probably wouldn’t get much sleep the night before anyway.
As it turned out, I actually had a pretty decent sleep. I woke up at 5.20am– way before my alarm– and I was surprisingly awake. I think the mix of nerves and excitement had me a bit wired, to be honest! I had a quick shower (since we wouldn’t be able to shower for a few days) and forced some breakfast down, then it was time to go.
I was picked up at 6.30am
Infusio had arranged for me, Ross and another patient to be picked up by a taxi at 6.30am. Sure enough, our taxi was waiting for us outside of the apartments. Given the fact there wasn’t really any traffic, we got to the clinic quickly.
It was pretty comical when we first arrived at the Infusio building. The building was locked with it being so early in the morning and we couldn’t get in. There was some sort of intercom outside, so I pressed all of the buttons and hoped for the best. Needless to say, that didn’t work!
We had a good laugh about being excited to get our stem cells but not being able to get into the building to get them. Not too long after this, though, we started to see some people walking through the building from the back. So, we went to investigate and, sure enough, the back door was open.
Prepping for Stem Cell Therapy
At the clinic, I was taken along to an area outside the procedure room. Here, I took off my t-shirt and trousers and changed into a robe. I then got to relax on one of the chaise lounges whilst everything was getting prepared for my procedure.
While I waited, Angela gave me my daily thymus shot followed by an injection of a sedative and some arnica tablets. The sedative didn’t make me very sleepy but it probably didn’t help that I genuinely felt incredibly excited at the prospect of getting my stem cells. I actually amazed myself by how excited I felt. I thought that I would be incredibly nervous and anxious but I wasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a little bit nervous (and the sedative did help to ease that). But, more than anything, I was actually looking forward to the procedure. I guess this was because, in my head, I didn’t view it as a medical procedure. To me, this was my opportunity to get my life back. It was everything.
The Procedure Room
Next, I was taken into the procedure room. It was a bright, clean room that had huge windows at the front and a table for me to lie face down on. I was able to lay down and look outside, which I found very calming (even though I couldn’t really see anything without my glasses!).
Before the procedure began, everyone made sure that I was okay and understood what was going to happen. The staff at Infusio are honestly wonderful and I always felt safe and well-looked after. I had Dr Bijan, Nadine and Angela in the room with me. They all did a great job of taking my mind off what was happening and kept me feeling relaxed.
The Stem Cell Therapy (SVF) Procedure
Dr Bijan began by injecting a local anaesthetic into various points on my back, which wasn’t painful. The anaesthetic was given a chance to work before Dr Bijan checked to see if I was numb. Then, he got started.
Dr Bijan began by sterilising my back with iodine solution. He then made a small incision at the bottom of my back. Next, he started removing fat from the right side of my flank.
This is done with what I can only describe as a “big-ass needle” (which I’m glad I never saw). Dr Bijan inserts the needle into the incision in the middle of the back and moves it back and forth across the flank to extract the fat.
He assured me that I had great fat. I joked that he could take as much as he needed, it wouldn’t be missed! As Dr Bijan got to work, I was smiling and chatting away to everyone. The procedure really didn’t phase me at all.
Half-way through, Dr Bijan swapped over to remove fat from my left side. Another incision was made for this. For whatever reason, I did not have good quality fat on my left side. He, therefore, stopped and went back to the right side.
Interestingly, when I had problems with neurological symptoms (pins and needles, numbness and tingling) it was always on my left side. It’s clearly not my best side!
In terms of what I could actually feel, the procedure was, for the most part, completely painless. I was aware of feeling pressure and I joked that it was like I was being given some weird massage (as my body was pulled back and forth a bit as the fat was extracted… what a work out it must be for Dr Bijan!).
It did feel a little nippy when the needle went to the far side of my body but I tolerated it fine. I was just aware of it.
The stem cell procedure was over pretty quickly, though. A bandage was placed on my back afterwards, then I was helped up from the table. I got to see the fat that Dr Bijan had collected and… it was pretty gross, I’m not going to lie!
But, I was fascinated by the whole thing and wanted to see. To me, it’s mind-boggling to think that my fat was going to be transformed into something so amazing.
After the procedure, I was taken back to a chaise lounge to rest. Here, I was given an IV of mannitol, which enhances the delivery of the stem cells. Following this, I was given an IV flush and, afterwards, it was the moment I had been waiting for; it was time for me to receive my stem cells!
Receiving my Stem Cells
Receiving my stem cells was such an emotional and amazing moment. It was made even more memorable by the fact that Ross was able to inject the SVF (containing my stem cells) into my IV bag. It was a moment for celebration and all of the staff couldn’t have been nicer. They really helped to make it special.
I was then taken to another room where I could lie down while the stem cells infused into my body via the IV. This didn’t take long and after the IV was finished, I was given a Myers cocktail IV (vitamins and minerals). Once that was done, I was taken to have my bandage changed and I was then free to go.
I was in the clinic for around 4 hours but it felt like such a quick morning.
How I felt afterwards
I honestly felt so good after my stem cells. There was definitely a noticeable shift. I felt the best I had in I can’t remember how long. It was incredible. I cried and got pretty emotional about it.
I knew that there could be a roller coaster of recovery to come but in that moment I was so happy. SVF is a very powerful anti-inflammatory and I believe this is why I felt so good after receiving it.
I am not going to lie, though, I was feeling bruised and sore once the local anaesthetic wore off. I was actually pretty glad that fat was only taken from my right side in the end. It meant that I could at least lie on one side without it being sore. I was given ibuprofen to take for pain relief but I actually didn’t feel like I needed it.
In terms of aftercare, I was told not to do a lot of bending over and I wasn’t allowed to shower for 3 days. This was to reduce the risk of infection and allow the small incisions time to heal.
I had to keep a larger bandage on for the first day (which I hated as it went from the middle of my back down to my ass and felt like I was wearing a nappy (that’s diaper for any Americans)). After that, it was just a small bandage over the incision site that I had to wear.
A few hours after I received my stem cells, my skin became very reactive. I had red patches, rashes and even came out in hives on my thighs. I took an antihistamine to calm this down and I was assured that it was a normal reaction and would get better with time.
Histamine reactions can initially get worse after stem cells and no-one is really sure why, but it may be related to neurological repair (if you have been reading my monthly updates, you will be aware that I had some issues with this for a few weeks).
A Note On Recovery From the procedure
I was sore for a few days after the procedure but I wasn’t actually in as much pain as I had anticipated. It hurt to bend, to change position and things like that. But, if I was in one position or up and walking it wasn’t too bad. I was worried about flying home a few days later, for example, but in reality, this wasn’t a problem for me.
The incisions healed nicely and I was told to take the bandage off completely once I was back home (3 days later). I was allowed to shower again after 3 days but I had to wear a waterproof dressing on the incisions initially.
I have been left with two little red scars at the base of my back, which amuse me as it kind of looks like I’ve been bitten by a vampire. I’m sure these scars will fade with time, though.
I had some numbness on the side of my flank where the fat was extracted. It actually took around 3 months for the feeling to go back to normal in that area. I just thought I’d mention that in case anyone reading experiences the same and is worried about it.
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Read all of my Infusio posts here.