How You Can Help
Since 2014, I’ve visited the Emergency Room five times, had two MRIs, undergone a year of physical therapy and steroid injections, and have suffered countless days of sharp, shooting, and burning throughout my arms and back; when it first happened I thought I was having a heart attack.
At my first ER visit, I learned a disc is bulging in my spine due to a lack of connective tissue and that it has slipped and landed on a nerve. When the pain returned and I went back to the ER and got a second MRI, the doctors found two slipped discs and diagnosed me with Degenerative Disc Disease. This diagnosis has significantly changed the last five years of my life. Besides work, all I can do is rest. Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy. Imagine if you were lying flat on your back for five daysstraight, your mind racing, and your body in extreme pain.
In March 2019, I learned that Stanford University was conducting a clinical trial research study into stem cell therapies for Degenerative Disc Disease. I applied and was accepted. “Finally,” I remember saying to myself, “I’ll be free from pain.” When the doctors examined me further they said that my situation was too severe and that I didn’t qualify for the study.You can imagine how crushed I was. All I could do was cry. My mind, body, and spirit were all burning.
All I have been able to do is maintain an anti-inflammatory diet, take Ibuprofen occasionally because too much is dangerous for me, and focus on mental, spiritual and physical self-care. Later in March 2019, I learned about a spinal surgeon in Los Angeles,Greg Khounganian, MD, who specializes in minimally invasive spinal remedies for Degenerative Disc Disease, including injections of stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood. This approach will regenerate the missing connective tissue in my spine so that my two slipped discs will stay where they’re supposed to and no longer press against my spinal nerves. The best part is, I can avoid surgery.
How the Money will be Spent
At first, I thought I couldn’t afford stem cells. I felt hopeless, especially after disappointing experiences in the ER. One time I was treated like an addict and another time I was forced to choose between pain relievers or anti-inflammatories when I needed both; these experiences taught me that I can and should request a patient advocate. Also, how do you know who is a trusted and experienced medical professional for this treatment?I have been doing relentless research and I first contacted a doctor in San Clemente who seemed trustworthy, to learn more and schedule a consultation. But the conversation seemed super sketchy and after I did more research I learned he was being sued by multiple people for fraud. If not him, how would I know that someone wouldn’t try to take advantage of my lack of knowledge, my hope for reliable treatment, and my desperate need to be pain-free?
Then, I found Dr. Khounganian. The first time I called his officein August 2019, the staff were tremendously knowledgeable and helpful, and by following him on Instagram I’ve learned so much more about my condition and about how to take better care of my spine. With Dr. Khounganian, one injection is $4,000 and each additional injection is $1,000 (plus the initial $400 consultation to ensure treatment meets my specific needs). I’ll need three injections in my C7, L4, and L5 vertebrae, for a total of $6,400. I have saved $1,500 so far ($1,000 in savings and $500 from my business, Radiant Century). I only need your help to raise $4,900 to treat my Degenerative Disc Disease so that this too can pass. On September 9th, I have my consultation with Dr. Khounganian and I look forward to updating you all on my prognosis!
Why This Means so Much
My goal is to avoid surgery. The recovery time for surgery is 4-6 weeks, but the recovery time from the stem cell injections is only 2-3 days. After 3-4 months I’ll slightly feel the effects, and then entirely after 6 months. I’ve come to terms with the fact that one day I may require surgery, but not now. I’m only 40 years young. My life has been about taking the herbal route, and regeneration is a metaphor for my current situation. Rather than risk the potential complications of surgery, burden myself with expenses, and have to be recovering and not able to work for as long as 6 weeks, I want to help my body heal itself from within, using stem cells.
Your support means so much to helping me live the second half of my life. My vintage clothing company is skyrocketing, and I want to dive back into my stained glass artistry. I love life and I love you, but just breathing in life triggers unimaginable pain I never knew existed before this happened. Now I realize I need to ask for help. This is not easy for me, but accepting this humbling fact has been part of the journey. The peace that comes with reaching out to you is something unexpected and beautiful that has come out of this scary situation.
Thank you for reading my story. Please remember this one lesson I will always cherish from this experience: you are never alone. You are alive and you are loved. It’s just a matter of reaching out and asking for help when you need it because it will come from the unlikeliest of people and places. Any donations you can offer will be truly appreciated. To help get the word out, you can share the link to my GoFundMe page on your Facebook Timeline!
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