When we embarked on Adult Stem Cell Banking Services, many people responded by asking the million-dollar question, “Is it painful?” and “The sight of the needle going into my body is not so pleasant lah!”
To prove that it is a painless and effortless exercise, I took it upon myself to be the first Adult Stem Cell client at StemTECH International. This is the fruitful journey I went through.
The procedure started with a simple half-hour talk with our Blood Bank Director, Prof. Dr. Menaka Hariharan who, incidentally, was the first lady to be sent by our Malaysian Government to Seattle, USA, to learn about Stem Cells back in the 1980s. She came back and led a team in carrying out the first bone marrow, peripheral blood and cord blood stem cell transplants.
A medical questionnaire is filled up to determine my current health status, then, it’s off to the medical checkup , where a blood sample is taken and sent to our lab for testing. The results came back with flying colours, of course (ahem!).
During the ‘counselling’ by Prof. Dr. Menaka, I was informed that there is a drug (safe and without side-effects) to increase the number of stem cells produced in the marrow which are thereafter released in our blood streams. This drug is called ‘Neupogen®’. One has to be administered with the Neupogen® injections for a period of 5 days (once a day) before undergoing the harvesting on the 6th day.
The next phase was my stem cell storing journey. This started off with me getting hook onto the latest Apheresis machine. Now, now, while that may sound like one of those gadgets from a rerun of Back To The Future, the Apheresis machine is designed to work just like a Dialysis machine; the circulating blood is drawn out and into the machine and then spun around so that the red and white blood and platelets are all separated from each other. From the white blood, my stem cells are then extracted by the newer and more sophisticated Apheresis machine and the remaining red blood together with the platelets flow back into my body. Easy-peasey.
The older machine would have taken 4 to 6 hours to harvest my stem cells but with this newer machine which we placed at the Day Care of Tropicana Medical Centre, it did the job in precisely 2 hours and 15 minutes. (The timing of the harvesting procedure differs from one person to another, but we can safely say that the entire process of actual harvesting is approximately 2 to 4 hours.)
There are three areas through which the harvesting can be done - through the blood veins in your arm, neck or groin (femoral vein). The veins in the arms are normally small and may cause stoppages in the flow of the blood during harvesting. And many would be too scared to draw out blood from the neck area. Therefore the ideal vein is from the femoral vein in the groin area.
Let’s now address the issue that’s probably playing on everybody’s mind: just how painful are we talking here?
I can now attest to it, the only two points wherein a slight sense of discomfort (read: “ant bite” prick, as I will put it) is felt, is when the local anaesthetic is administered to the groin area. And the pretty Anaesthesiologist at Tropicana Medical Centre, Dr. Khoo, made it a breeze that I actually didn’t feel anything while she inserted the catheter with the needle that is connected to the Apheresis machine. After Dr. Khoo had done her magic in about 10 minutes, all that is left to do is lay back and relax while the Apheresis machine sorts everything out for me, literally.
Ms Wenddi-Anne Chong, Group Executive Director of TMC Life Sciences Berhad/StemTECH™ International together with Prof. Dr. Menaka H., Blood Bank Director and Mr. GE Kua, Laboratory Director of StemTECH™ International standing next to the latest Apheresis Machine at the Tropicana Medical Centre
I just continued doing my work from my bedside, making calls etc (well, I must admit that I am a workaholic horse!) before taking a short afternoon nap. When I woke up, the whole process was over and I was already disconnected from the Apheresis without realising it. After 2 to 3 hours of monitoring, I was discharged.