We were very nervous how she would do flying...but to our relief, 20 minutes after we pre boarded our flight, to our utter astonishment and amazement, we met both Dr. Zannos Grekos and Greg Finely from Regenocyte as they walked down the aisle to their seats. Mailia... bounced up and down in her chair in total relief...knowing that Dr. Grekos was right with her! The anxiety and extra stress she had about flying all but disappeared. They said they wanted to surprise Mailia...and surprise her they did!
Our flight required Mailia to be on oxygen...a lot of oxygen and she went through two large tanks in the two hour flight. We had expected our Regenocyte liaison, a beautiful woman by the name of Yanely Acosta to meet us at the gate with additional oxygen...but to our dismay, she was not allowed into the boarding area and it was too late to go back to the plane for the other full tank of oxygen. Dr. Grekos grabbed Mailia's O2 tank as I wheeled her down the corridors through customs when we she said..."Mom, I am out of oxygen now". Zannos and I took off like a shot to get her to where Yanely was waiting for us...totally in a panic that we rushed her through customs or I should say...the Department of Agriculture's officials who were demanding documentation on Mailia's little service dog "SteelDust". I told them in my most eloquent Spanish that we could not stop for this, Mailia needed oxygen and I would pay the consequences later.
We got Mailia to the front of the Airport, got her hooked up to her oxygen and made sure she was okay and while she stayed with Dr. Grekos and Yanely, Max and Greg went to fetch our luggage and Olando (translator and porter) and I went to make amends and pay restitution to the animal federales. The head of the department of Agriculture was a sweet woman named Margarita who not only was understanding with our plight but also instrumental for offering up some extra prayer support for Mailia's procedure. I know...playing the Mailia card had it's merits.
We then loaded ourselves into Yanaly's SUV and she proceeded to take us to our hotel. Thank goodness Max was riding up front with Yanaly...as Mailia and I did not need to see the unbelievable way people drive and get around, here in the Dominican Republic. We were amazed at how folks could drive as recklessly as they do and not wind up in a serious or even minor car accident. Yanaly, was no exception. She told us there are 6 different horn beeps that each have their own meaning. She mostly used the toot toot...I am coming, or toot...thank you....or beeeeeeep, get out of the way!
Our journey to the hotel was nothing short of miraculous as well. We were personally greeted by the hotel manager Mario Mendez and assistant manager Lenin Casanova and most of their staff, who had been expecting Mailia's arrival. It is the off season now...and we were graciously received and accomodated into a nice room and upgraded for free to an executive suite facing the ocean. Mailia, Max and I had a nice dinner at the hotel and a restful evening.
The next day Wednesday, was a day which brought a huge surprise as a friend of Mailia's came with her traveling companion all the way from Pennsylvania to be with her for her stem cell procedure. Janette and Jaunita arrived at our hotel while Mailia and I were having breakfast and Max was taking Steel for his morning relief. The potty reflief jaunt involved Max running, no sprinting across a four lane (very busy) street in front of our hotel to the beach area...without getting hit. Pedestrian crosswalks...they crack me up here because they are never used...or can't be used safely.
Nahla had flown in the night before and was staying at the same hotel as Janette and Jaunita at the Intercontinental. We all piled into Yanely's vehicle...including Mailia's oxygen and wheelchair and we headed for a nice ride through the colonial part of town where we stopped to see the oldest Catholic church on this continent.
We got Mailia into her wheel chair and proceeded to the church where a man by the name of "Angel" approached us and offered to give us the grand tour. He was a nice man, very humble and humourous. He spoke to Mailia and asked why she was sick. We told him she had come for a very special procedure for stem cells for her lungs and heart. He right away...told us that he had also experienced talking to and praying for a woman two years ago...who came to the Dominican Republic for stem cell therapy. That...was Barbara McKean who he said could barely walk and was so sick with COPD and pulmonary hypertension. He prayed for her...and now, he said...she writes to him from time to time to let him know how well she progressed after stem cell therapy.
Angel offered to pray for Mailia. Max and I took Mailia into a small chapel within the church...and we prayed. We see Mailia getting well, happier than ever...her miracle before her. We all left there...pretty exhilarated and optimistic everything was in God's hands now. No turning back.
That evening, we all got together for a special dinner to celebrate the eve of Mailia's stem cell procedure and to see her relinguish the anxiety and worry she has been carrying now for so long. Nahla brought a beautiful letter from Cal for Mailia, and also a beautiful pendant from her gorgeous and sweet daughter Justine. Cal's letter helped Mailia and we want him to know it really made a difference for Mailia...knowing that Cal has helped her by pioneering the way for she and others. Cal still has to climb that mountain to get to his final destination...and he will do so with great courage and love from an incredible support system.
The next morning, June 3rd will be a day that Max and I will never forget. It was to become the clincher for Mailia's Miracle. Mailia was not to have any food after 9:30 a.m. so we went up to the 20th floor of our hotel for a quick breakfast before being picked up by Yanely to take us to the hospital Centro Cardiovascular Dominicano. When we got there...Mailia's service dog SteelDust became the target of descrimination...as animals, no matter the connection or service, they are not allowed on any premise in this country. We spoke with the doctors and he was allowed minimal access...so he was temporarily stripped of his duties and found loving and caring arms in those of Mailia's dear friend and animal vet tech, Janette and her friend Jaunita who stayed and took care of him while we admited Mailia for her procedure.
Mailia was taken to a room where she and another couple from Florida were waiting to go first, for their stem cells. The reports came in...Zannos told the other patient that he had over 62 Million stem cells and that Mailia would get an astounding 57.8 Million! As we got Mailia settled in and changed into a lovely gown, an x-ray technician came in to get a chest x-ray for the doctors. Later...one by one...the cardiologists started to arrive and come in.
We met with Regenocyte's Dr. Lionel Fco. Liriano or (Chiqui) as he is fondly called, the one who would orchestrate all the work in the control room. Then Dr. Roberto Fernandez de Castro and lead Dr. Hector Rosario Figueroa came in to meet us and Mailia. They had just drove in from another main city from the north, Santiago and were going to get ready to study their patients records and consult with Dr. Zannos Grekos.
Mailia was also visited by two traveling pediatric nurses from San Diego, Ca. Amy and Emily who were on R&R in Santo Domingo after having traveled from Haiti for a 2 week relief effort. They had met Dr. Grekos and Greg at the hotel and were given the opportunity to come bear witness to his procedure he has spent years developing and perfecting and asked if we were okay if they could observe. We were very happy to have them...as I quickly put them to work helping me get Mailia prepped and hooked up to all their monitors.
Then Max and I quickly went into change into our scrubs for Max was allowed to be in the control room with Dr. Chiqui, Amy, Emily and Greg Finley as well, who was video taping and documenting Mailia's procedure and Max, too...taking pictures that you are now previewing.
Mailia was explained the procedure by Zannos and Vicente...her anesthesiologist whoes cell phone drove me nuts at times. The pictures shown here are of Dr. Fernandez and Dr. Rosario who were the ones running the whole show with Grekos all around the lab making sure everything was coreaographed perfectly despite the pandemonium going on.
Mailia's blood draw produced over 57.8 million adult stem cells which had arrived only hours before. Paperwork was verified, control and batch numbers matched to her wrist band...all in order. I watched Mailia's heart vitals constantly...while stroking her forehead, wanding and calming her, putting her into a total state of relaxation. There were three separate times where she went into a deep meditative state that made me nervous and later relieved to see this was her way, of allowing the invasiveness not to overpower her. She remained connected and strong...amazingly strong!
The procedure took a cool two hours and they managed to get all the stem cells, which were in 3 separate syringes into all 6 of her main lung artery branches in both lungs, and before removing the cath Dr. Grekos had Dr. Rosario place the last cc of stem cells in her pulmonary artery...just for good measure. We were so impressed with this teams profesionalism, their internal Q.A. and expertese while working to help our Mailia.
She was done!
After a restful night recouperating in the hospital and being monitored, we were escorted back to our hotel this morning by Yanely. The staff at the hospital was courteous, helpful and very gracious to us and we thank them and everyone here in Santo Domingo for their hospitality and willingness to help and care for Mailia.
It has been a truly humbling experience for all of us...as it should be.