Sunday, December 25, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

I am home, celebrating Christmas with my entire family today for the first time in 5 years!! We are eating, laughing, hugging and kissing... It's incredible!

I feel like this must be a dream.... and if it is, I hope I never wake up!

I don't have the words to express my gratitude and happiness today! But, as I often say, a picture is worth 1,000 words....

So with these pictures we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, filled with love, family, happiness and health.




Happy Birthday to Jesus and Merry Christmas to all!

In His great power and love,

Jessica
.....& ALL of the Stevens family!


Together again, 2011!! AMEN! :)



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Monday, December 19, 2011

I AM HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Good morning everyone!! This is my first blog from HOME!!!! I am super tired, but SO happy!!

I thought I would share with everyone the update that I sent to Dr. Cantu last night... it tells the whole story :)


Hola Dr. Green Shirt!!!

I am writing to you right now from HOME!!!! We just got home from the airport and right now I am laying in my own bed, in my own house, in my beautiful new bedroom, surrounded by family... It’s unreal.

They are all just staring at me, smiling and crying... looking at me as if I am this brand new masterpiece that was just put on display in a museum. Nobody is sure if they should touch it, or what to even say about it... they are just completely amazed at the "new Jessica" that has been returned home to them!! ...A Jessica who can now move around, sit up, talk, laugh, be hugged, held, touched, kissed (maybe too much!!) loved and EAT with them!! It's beyond belief. I think you would be very jealous of the amazing feast my Italian grandmother cooked for us today! :)

We started our day at 3 AM yesterday leaving our apartment in Mexico and heading to the airport for our 6 AM flight. Cindel slept over with her mom Claudia so they could drive us.

On the flight from Monterrey to Atlanta I was able to watch the sunrise! It was incredible!!

The flights themselves went pretty well and I held up better than I expected! The staff and everyone at Delta went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and more at ease.

Every time the flight got bumpy, or I was feeling anxious, or nauseous, I just looked at my favorite picture—the one of you and Patch Adams and it immediately made me smile and feel better.

The Mexican security check went fine-- they read your doctors letter and didn't touch me at all. On the USA side though, they took me into a private room and wanted to "gently" touch me everywhere and swab both me and my wheelchair for "further" inspection.

It was time consuming, but everyone was really nice and so excited and happy for me when I told them my story and how I was traveling home for the first time!

Me with Nikki

I think the part of the trip that caused the most discomfort was having to be transferred into this small “aisle” wheelchair to get in and out of the plane. Definitely not comfortable at all.... and I am pretty small, I can't imagine how anyone larger than me could even get on one of these things!!

On the plane rides my mom (obviously) told EVERYBODY (cleaning crew, flight attendants, pilots, whoever!) the whole story about my miracle in Mexico.

Mom and I

We also introduced everyone to "Nino Luigi "Patch" Cantu"-- my bear, who has never left my side for the past 2.5 years! :)

All of the pilots came over and sat down with me, congratulated me, wished me well and took pictures with me too!

This is me with the two pilots from flight 4988, David and Jon

Me with Rob, Otis, Dena and Tony on flight 1430

My mom somehow even managed to get herself invited up into the cockpit, with the pilots, to fly the plane! (Now, THAT is a scary thought!)

Captain Sarita

As I was wheeled out of the terminal I could already see the signs and hear people screaming my name!!

I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest! Finally, seeing my family again and their excitement over seeing me -healed-was just the greatest Christmas gift I have ever had in my life.

The three Stevens girls-- back together again!!!

My daughter (dog) Molly was at the airport waiting for me dressed in cute pink ballerina dress. I was so worried that she wouldn’t remember me, but she did! She ran over to me, jumped on top of me, kissed me and fell asleep in my arms!

There are really no words to describe today, except perfect.

Your ears must have been ringing because as we sat around re-uniting, all we could talk about was you! My uncles wore green shirts (my godfather even wore green pants!) in honor of you!

We had a professional videographer at the airport to capture this moment for our family and at the end of the tape he went around and had everyone say a special message and wave “hola” to you in Mexico!

I am extremely exhausted and I know I am running on pure adrenaline right now. I will probably crash for the next few days, but I wanted you to have these photos tonight, so that you can feel like you were here with me, because to me, you were. The reality is, for the rest of my life, every new or happy moment that I am ever blessed to get to experience, you always will be a big part of it because you gave me this chance to have a new life!

Seeing my Florida home for the first time in 5.5 years!!!

So, just know that tonight, because of you, the Stevens' family is sleeping under the same roof for the first time in 2.5 years!!!

Goodnight, Dr. Green Shirt, Thank you for saving my life. I love you…

.....Actually, WE ALL love you!

Te extra├▒o mucho!

Love,

Jessica

Your #1 Patient


"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."- 1 Corinthians 13:7



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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Counting down the days!

Hi everyone!

We have officially begun the final countdown until my homecoming! My sister Michelle has calculated the exact days, hours, minutes and even seconds until I will be home with her. I am smiling now just thinking about my family, finally all together again. I can’t wait!

I can honestly say though, that only a few times in my life have I ever felt so overwhelmed with emotions that I feel almost speechless, (ask anyone- when I am well, I rarely shut up!)

Right now I feel like I am a baby bird who is about to leave the “nest” for the first time in her life. Excited, yet scared, happy, yet nervous, optimistic, yet cautiously…

I guess the good news is that more than 90 percent of the time, the baby bird DOES eventually fly. :)

When I came to Monterrey, I never saw the day I would fly out of the nest ever coming. My parents were told that at the rate I was deteriorating, I could maybe live just a few more months in that condition. I was just hoping to live.

We certainly never intended on having to stay in the hospital for 14 months, or in Mexico for 2.5 years! I never could have anticipated the complications, or how slow and difficult my recovery would be.

But I also never imagined that I would come to know, adore and truly love my doctors and so many people here.

They have been the ones physically with me these past 2 years, through hell and back, and I know my mom and I never would have made it through without them.

I may have come to Mexico just hoping to re-gain my life and health, but in the process I have been so blessed to have also gained a second “mexican” family!

I don't think I fully realized, until now, just how emotionally difficult of a trip this would be. I am just so... ? everything. It’s crazy! I’m so excited to be well enough to go back home!... but at the same time, I know I am really going to miss what has become my “mexican home” too. It’s bittersweet. I know that sounds weird.

So while we spend the days packing, and cleaning, and packing some more... I spend my nights remembering their smiles, kindness and love, memorizing the incredible view of the mountains, thinking about the many miracles that have taken place, and envisioning the looks of pure amazement on everyone’s faces at home when they see me!!!

Heck, I came to Monterrey as someone that even I wouldn’t recognize now!!

My health has not been the only thing that has improved. My life as a whole has as well. My dreams are bigger, my goals may be harder to reach, but I want them more, my memories are sweeter, my heart is happier and fuller and my God, he is greater.

How will these people ever know exactly how much I love them, or how they have changed me?!?

I have a different appreciation and understanding of life now... It always goes on. There will be no ‘goodbyes’ because I know these bonds are lifelong.

Everything is how it should be.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

....I know I have.

So, for now, see you soon, hasta manana & thank you, for everything.

Love, Jessica


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Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!


…and NOT only in my dreams!!!!!

We have booked our flights home!! (Again!)

It had been a bit crazy here with a rough week after I had my bisphosphonate infusion. I had a rare reaction that caused my white blood count to drop very low and I was pretty sick with a fever for 10 days. Thank God I am much better this week and feeling back to my normal (or abnormal?) self again.

Dr. Cantu came over to check in on me and told us that my white count has now recovered- to a more normal level- all on it’s own!! Which is really great news!

We all decided that I will not be having another dose of that medication again. We will figure out something else at a later date.

For now, the most important thing is that I will be able to come home for Christmas!!!

The other day, our great friend Rosemary offered to help us book our trip to save my mom some aggravation.

It was so nice of her. We knew that this was not a small undertaking!

She proceeded to call Delta airlines from her home in Pennsylvania, with us watching her via video skype chat from Mexico (isn’t technology great?!)

A guy named Mike picked up the phone and she spent the next 10 minutes explaining RSD and all of my special medical requirements for the flight.

“I know this is a lot… and there are going to be some problems… ” Rosemary said.

Mike’s response back was quick and in a cheerful voice he said, “No! Don’t worry! On my line, I don’t have problems...I only have solutions!”

He wasn’t kidding!- Within about 30 minutes we had our new flights booked and Mike had spoken with his supervisor about all of the medical details.

Everything worked out- perfectly! Not one problem!

Even better yet, after hearing our story, Mike said he was honored to be a part of my homecoming and completely waved the fee’s that we owed the airline for canceling our previous flights! We would also be able to sit in the 1st row of first class on both flights! Awesome!

We thanked him for all of his help and gave him the link to this blog, so he could follow my progress and journey home.

Mom and I are still kind of in shock at how easily it all seems to be coming together this time around! We are so thankful, so happy and soooo excited to be coming home! Finally!!!

Please join us in praying that God continues to clear the path before us and for everything to continue to go this smoothly as we make our way home… for Christmas!!! ahhhh! I still can’t believe it!!

See you all very soon!

In God’s Love,

Jessica


"This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses---“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" (Isaiah 43:16-21)


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our family and friends!


We want to wish a blessed Thanksgiving to all!

I don’t know of anyone who has more to be Thankful for this year than our family does.

We have been overwhelmed by the amazing mountains God has moved to allow Jessica to be able to receive the treatments that have been so successful for her and to be cared for by Dr. Cantu, who is dedicated to her complete healing.

What I have come to know and believe is that we have been truly surrounded by very compassionate people. Truly compassionate people are often hard to understand. They take risks most people would never take. They give away what most people would cling to. They reach out and touch when most would hold back with folded arms. Their caring brings them up close where they feel the other persons pain and do whatever is necessary to demonstrate true concern.

Through this journey, God has been our strength—but YOU have all served as his body, his hands and his feet!

Today (and everyday) we thank Him for the truly compassionate people in our lives- our amazing family, friends, church family and community- and all of what you have done for us- I don’t know how we will ever to be able to thank each person who has helped to make Jessica’s recovery possible, but we will find a way! We know we have been so blessed!

So, this Thanksgiving, we want to personally thank you all for being those “compassionate” people and may God bless you all today with a bountiful feast and a truly blessed day!

In God’s love, always,

A most thankful Mom,

Sarah

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with many songs of thanksgiving, I praise him. (Psalm 28:7)


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Sunday, November 13, 2011

100,000 views of the blog!!! & Out of the hospital!

Hi everyone!

Well, I am home from the hospital! Our small glitch in getting the medication turned into a little bit of a big glitch and it took a few days to locate and get it.

Right now I’m running a fever and feeling completely worn out, fatigued and achy as side effects from the infusion, which was expected. Overall, I am doing alright and I’m sure I will be feeling better and have my energy back in a few days once the medicine is out of my system.

I was so surprised to log online today to realize that while I was in the hospital this blog has reached 100,000 views!!!!!!

That’s amazing!!! Thank you to everyone who continues to follow my recovery and keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I will never have words to express my gratitude!

As you know, Friday was Veteran’s Day in the US. What most people probably don’t know is that RSD actually started with our soldiers! The first descriptions of it were documented about 125 years ago during the Civil War (1861-65) by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a young US Army physician, who treated soldiers with gunshot wounds.

He described pain that persisted long after the bullets were removed the soldiers. He noted that the pain was characteristically of a burning nature, and named it "causalgia" (Greek for burning pain) which he attributed to the aftermath of their injuries.

Dr. Weir Mitchell, a neurologist, was very perplexed by what he was observing. He carefully documented how his patients, who were formerly otherwise healthy men, lives had been forever changed by this peculiar, burning pain, that he described it in one article as,

"the most terrible of all the tortures which a nerve wound may inflict."

He finished the same article by stating:

"Of the special cause which provokes it, we know nothing.”

Over the past hundred or so years, a lot of different names have been used to describe this bizarre syndrome- causalgia, algodystrophy, postraumatic dystrophy, Sudeck's atrophy, shoulder-hand syndrome, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and more recently, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

No matter what you decide to call it, RSD/CRPS is now known as a chronic, incurable neurological disorder in which the autonomic nervous system—the system that transfers signals from the central nervous system to various organs throughout the body—malfunctions, causing nerves to misfire and send constant pain signals back to the brain.

Today, research has brought us far from when RSD was first observed during the Civil War. It’s now known that RSD is not thought to have a single cause, but rather multiple causes producing a similar syndrome.

RSD most commonly develops in response to physical trauma-- About 65% of cases of are triggered by minor trauma (soft tissue injury, sprain, twisted ankle, venipuncture, etc). The next most common triggers are the result of bone fractures and surgery.

Current research suggests that an excessive immune response, possibly due to latent infection, may be the culprit, at least in some cases. It can also be brought on by spinal cord disorders, stroke or heart attack.

However, no matter what the underlying cause, the result is the same: horrible, excruciating nerve pain.

On the medically accepted McGill Pain Scale (0=no pain -to- 50=worst pain) RSD (causalgia) is ranked as the most intense and extreme type of pain you can possibly experience… above a bone fracture, cancer pain, childbirth and even above amputation!

McGill pain scale

Tom Haederle of Johns Hopkins University has described RSD like this: "If Hell were a clinical medical condition, it might look something like reflex sympathetic dystrophy."

I think anyone who has suffered with, or watched someone suffer from RSD would have to agree.… It’s that bad.

Dr. Schwartzman, who is internationally known for his extensive work and research in RSD/CRPS over the past 30+ years has said he doesn’t think there is a worse pain problem than RSD. I think he is right.

The bottom line is diagnosis is difficult, prompt treatment is critical and more research is needed.

When I got home from the hospital this afternoon as I was laying in my bed I saw a para-glider fly right by my window!!

His parachute was orange- which is the color of RSD awareness! I think it is a sign of hope... that one day all who suffer with this pain will have the freedom to soar above the mountains created in their lives by this illness.

It definitely looks like a LOT of fun!

Again, thank you to everyone who has helped me to gain my freedom from the pain of RSD, please continue to pray for all of those who are suffering and for a cure to be found, soon. ...100,000 views of this blog-- that is a lot of people! Imagine the awareness we could all raise, together?!

In God's love,

Jessica

"...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

At the hospital...

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to give a quick update that I am here at the hospital and everything is going well so far. Yesterday morning our wonderful friend Elizabeth accompanied us to the hospital and I was admitted and got up into my room very quickly.

The amazing Dr. Green Shirt met me in my room and introduced me to Dr. Izquierdo, who will be assisting him with my treatment this week. In typical Jessica fashion, I had to give him a nickname as I have with all of my other doctors here! In spanish “Izquierdo” means “Left”… so he is now known as “Dr. Lefty” by me. :)

Yesterday afternoon my mexican grandma, Dr. Rainbow, came to visit and I was able to go and have a nice lunch outside by the pretty water fountain with her, which was great!

There is a gorgeous chapel here and today for the first time I was able to go downstairs for the 7:30 am mass- It was my first time being at a church service in over 5 years!!! It was so special to me! Somehow hearing a sermon, songs and the Lord’s prayer being said in spanish, made it that much more emotional and even more amazing.

God has been so good and so faithful! I am really just overwhelmed by the thought of it all sometimes. The mountains that I have seen moved, literally right before my eyes… It’s amazing, really.

As I sat there reflecting on all I have been carried through, two other fellow RSD patients were heavily on my mind- Irene Turner, who is always leaving lovely messages of hope and inspiration on my blog, had surgery to amputate her finger this morning, in hopes of alleviating her horrible pain, and Blair Webber, who has been in the hospital in Canada with RSD related complications for over 1 month now. I am praying that God will guide each of them to healing, as well as all who are suffering with RSD.

Last night I had an IV Calcium infusion and right now I am just sitting in my room visiting with some friends while waiting to start my first treatment… There was a little glitch in getting the medicine, but as always, Dr. Cantu is on top of it and hopefully it will be arriving within a few hours and we can start later tonight or early tomorrow.

Please pray for the medicine to get here, for the infusion to go smoothly and for the bad side effects that are common with this type of treatment will be minimal (or better yet- none at all!)

Thanks as always!

God bless!

Jessica

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's RSD Awareness Month!


Hi everyone!

Happy belated Halloween :)

Before I was sick, my family used to go all out for Halloween. We were always the first house on our street to have our decorations up and my mom was notorious for her clever costume ideas she came up with for my sisters and I. I have many good memories!

So, even though it is not widely celebrated here in Mexico, Yesterday I celebrated my first Halloween in over 5 years!

We made a “Haunted” Gingerbread house…

And I carved a pumpkin!!!

My nurse who has become one of my close friends, Angeles, came over and made Halloween cupcakes with me!

It was her first time ever celebrating Halloween!

My crazy mom agreed to dress up with me and we went trick-or-treating (giving out the cupcakes) to the people we have gotten friendly with in our apartment building!

We were a doctor and a patient.

So original, I know

(Thanks to Dr. Rainbow for letting my mom borrow her doctors coat! …My costume was obviously courtesy of Hospital San Jose. :)

Later last night a few friends came over to see our costumes, take pictures and eat candy with me!!

It was a great day and my most special Halloween yet!

...Which brings me to today. November 1st.

November is RSD Awareness month, and as I continue to make great progress in my recovery and experience all of these new, happy memories in my life I continually find myself thinking about all of the people who are still suffering and fighting with the horrible pain this disorder causes every minute of every single day… Especially those I’ve come to know and love through my journey here.

Last November I posted this blog about RSD along with this video, which I think deserves to be re-posted and re-watched-


Much of what I wrote at this time last year remains the same...

RSD is still a horribly painful, complex, mysterious and very confusing disease. There are still more questions than there are answers for many RSD patients.

We still need more awareness. We still need more research on the causes, prevention and treatment options for RSD… We still desperately need a cure.

However, this year, I write with much more hope and confidence that we are getting closer.

I have seen firsthand how far the wisdom, compassion, knowledge and dedication of the right doctor can go to bring even a patient with one of the worst cases of RSD, like me, back to the level and quality of life that I am now blessed to enjoy.

My hope and my prayer is that there will continue to be more answers, for all of us, who are dealing with this illness and for continued perseverance and understanding for the doctors who I know are working so hard on our behalf to lead us back to better, less-painful lives- especially Dr. Cantu and his team here!

-------------

Tomorrow I will be going back into the hospital for treatment to strengthen my bones. This is a new treatment for me (probably one of the only medications in the world that I have never had before!) so please pray that I tolerate the infusions well with no adverse effects so that my time in the hospital will be minimal and I will be strong enough to come home!!

Thank you for continuing to check my progress and keep me in your prayers. I will update again in a day or two from the hospital and be posting more information about RSD during awareness month.

God bless!

Jessica


"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)


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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Exit plan delayed...

I am sorry for the delay in this update, but these past few weeks have been so crazy! My family- both here in Mexico and back in Florida, have been getting everything ready for my homecoming.

My incredible dad and uncle Vinnie oversaw a large construction project in our home and once it was complete, my amazing aunt Carol decorated the room and bathroom for me. Everything on their side is ready!

On this end we were busy packing up the apartment (which as you can imagine after 2 years here—is a huge undertaking!), and saying our good-byes to the people who have become my second Mexican family.

Last week my mom spent 3 hours on the phone with various airlines going over my special medical circumstances. The flights were booked—for today, October 4th. Leaving Monterrey at 12pm.

We called everyone in our family and told them we would be coming home next week! Everyone was ecstatic, but my 88 year old Nanny was definitely the happiest of all! She screamed and laughed saying repeatedly, “My prayers have been answered!!!… My prayers have been answered!!!” It was so cute!

Anyway, on that same afternoon at 4pm I was scheduled to go for some final tests that needed to be done before I could leave.

I was very excited and kept telling everyone there that these were my “last Mexican medical tests”…

…Or not.

One of the tests I had is a Densitometry scan that checks your bone density. My results were not good at all. My scores show the highest fracture risk possible in both my spine and hips. It’s a miracle that I haven’t broken several bones already. We were told I will need to go back in the hospital and have some different types of treatment before it will be safe for me to travel.

Wow. Talk about a quick change of plans.

Needless to say, we were pretty bummed. We had to call back everyone in our family (not even 4 hours later!) and tell them this news—our exit plan has been delayed.

We expected everyone would be upset, like us, and they were… especially little Michelle. But once again, my Nanny’s response was the best and caught me totally off guard. “Its ok!" She said, "Honey, you have been sick for nearly 6 years… if you need to wait 6 more weeks, or however long, you just wait. My prayer HAS been answered- You are better!! Keep trusting in God, because he knows the right timing. You do not.”

Wow. I guess with age comes great wisdom.

For the past 2 years on my wall in my room I have this verse in both english and spanish-

Proverbs 3:5-6- “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

To be honest, I never really paid much attention to what the next part of that verse was though, until now…

Proverbs 3:7-8-“…Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. ….Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Trust, healing and strength... Those are promises I can count on!

Thanks again everyone, for all of your continued support. My hope and prayer is to get to be home before Thanksgiving to celebrate with my family. Thank you for keeping my family and I in your prayers!

In God’s love, Jessica


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Friday, September 16, 2011

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!!!!!


It is often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words....




"Salida", in Spanish, means exit!!

Today is Mexican Independence Day, and with the biggest smile on my face I am excited to tell everyone that I am celebrating my independence too!!

I AM FINALLY ABLE TO COME HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Our hope is to be able to leave in a few weeks! Please pray for us that everything goes smoothly and all things continue to come together to make this possible!

I can't believe this day is finally here.... Nothing is impossible with God!!

See you all soon! :)

In His awesome power and love, always,
Jessica


"God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always." (Ps. 121 7-8 MSG)

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On top of the world!

My sister Katherine is here in Monterrey with me!! We have been having the most amazing time together. I had not seen her since March and she was amazed with how much more progress I have made and how much more I am able to do with her now! We have been catching up, playing games, cooking and eating (a lot!) together. Just doing sister things. We're having a blast!

Yesterday our Mom surprised us and we went on a little day trip to Obispado! El Obispado is a museum of historical Mexican military artifacts (swords, guns, cannon balls, uniforms, etc) and some religious artwork as well.

We didn’t go there to see any of that though. We actually didn’t even go inside the museum at all! See, El Obispado is located high up in the hills of Monterrey and we have been told by our friends that the panoramic view of the entire city that you can see from up there was quite incredible.

Oh my gosh! They were right!!

Stunning.

Words will never do it justice.

We just sat there, smiling, speechless. Completely in awe of what we saw.

I looked around me- the Sierra Madre mountain range in front of me, the Cerro de la silla next to me, the glowing sky above me, my mom and sister, smiling behind me.

Surreal.

I tried to take a mental snapshot while praying I would never ever be able to forget this moment… of literally, being on top of the world!

I than decided to wheel closer to the ledge and look over- down at the city of Monterrey below.

My eyes found it immediately- the helicopter landing pad that signifies a hospital.

There it was. Hospital San Jose. Right beneath my feet!

I counted up to the 8th floor and found my room.

At first I got very, very excited, “Oh my god!!! Look mom!! Look!! That’s my room!! How cool is that?! Take a picture of me!!!”

I may have even started waving, rapidly while screaming (very) loudly “Hiiiiii Dr. Cantuuuu!!!!!!” …As if he could see, or hear me from the hospital or something.

Oh boy. I guess that is what 5 years of isolation, trapped sick indoors can do to a person?? Wow. How embarrassing. :)

However once I got over my initial excitement (and took a few dozen pictures) I was quickly brought right back into that room. The memories of the very long year of laying in there staring out of that very window up at this very hill… not knowing when, how, or if, I would ever get on the outside again…

I never thought I’d ever be seeing this view of the hospital. From up high, looking down. From the outside, looking in.

So many emotions became very real and overwhelming.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

“What’s wrong?” Katherine asked. “Are you crying because you’re happy, or sad?”

“I don’t know! I don’t think either… I’m just so thankful.”

I was feeling a lot of things in that special moment with my mom and sister yesterday, but the feeling of thankfulness was definitely felt the strongest.

Thankful for this moment, this family, this time, this place, these doctors, this experience, this life, this God… all of it.

I never could have visualized or imagined this day, my first time out with my sister Katherine in over 5 years! It was perfect and I hope we never forget this feeling of literally being “on top of the world”!

We made it through the valley to stand upon the mountain! Thank you Jesus!

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth!" Psalm 121


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Jessica's Journey to Getting Her Life Back

By Sarah Gina (Jessica's Mom)


As we begin this journey toward renewed health we would like to express our sincere heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick and all the work he has done and continues to do in order to bring patients like my daughter Jessica back to a more meaningful life and restored from this devastating illness. Also, special thanks to Dr. Fernando Cantu and his team of doctors in Mexico for taking on a difficult case like my daughters, Words cannot express the renewed sense of hope that we have that one day, our Jessica, can regain her life that has been taken away from her – God Bless you all!

Jessica’s Story

Once an A+ student who loved school, was involved in many extracurricular activities, played varsity tennis, lacrosse and gymnastics and enjoyed spending time with her family and friends, our daughter Jessica has spent the last 3 years incapacitated, paralyzed, unable to sit or walk and eat. She spends her days confined to a hospital bed, wearing sunglasses and noise-canceling headphones, due to severe light and sound sensitivity.

Jessica and her sisters, 2 mos. before becoming ill

The pain she feels is indescribable and all attempted treatments have not even come close to relieving her suffering.

She has seen many doctors, undergone numerous painful tests and procedures, has been prescribed various medications, and has been hospitalized frequently including being intubated and on a ventilator. She is severely debilitated and currently is only 92 pounds. This is certainly no life for a 21 year old young woman!


Jessica is suffering from neurologic Lyme disease and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a severely debilitating and painful neuromuscular disorder. She suffers daily with constant sharp, stabbing, tingling and burning pain; throughout her body; severe headaches; paralysis; intense muscle spasms; gastroparesis; seizures; twisting of her limbs (dystonia); sensitivity to any touch (allodynia); extreme sensitivity to lights and sounds; excessive sweating; swelling; fevers; softening of bones; decreased hair growth; redness and discoloration of the limbs; and painful skin ulcers. The pain is constant and unrelenting, but despite her suffering, her faith in God remains and she still has hope for her future.

Jessica's painful skin lesions

Jessica's journey began in 1999, when she was only 11 years old. She became very ill with Mono and was bed bound for 3 months. She subsequently developed RSD (stage 1) of the lower right leg. She received early intervention and returned to playing sports and enjoying her life.

Jessica, age 15, at summer camp

Four years later, in 2003, while away at a sleep-away camp, she developed a rash behind her right knee, coincidentally in the same leg that previously had RSD!

At the time, the camps nurse & doctor told her that it was “duck rash” – a rash from swimming in the lake with duck feces. However, Jessica was able to obtain photos from camp from another camper which shows the classic “bulls-eye” rash from Lyme disease! It wasn’t until much later and only after developing symptoms and becoming very ill, was the diagnosis of Lyme disease and Babesiosis (another tick-borne infection) made.


Most people (and doctors!) have no idea how serious Lyme disease can become and no clue how to properly diagnose it. Unfortunately, if she would have been promptly diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease, the RSD would not have been triggered and she would not be suffering.

July 2003, Jessica's Lyme disease rash

If it wasn’t for her doctor, Dr. Liegner, and his expertise with complex cases of Lyme, and his determination to try any means in getting her well, by getting a “team” of doctors on her case, we wouldn’t be here today, still fighting. We owe him a deep sense of gratitude for all he does for Jessica!

During these past three years and with the pain becoming more intense and unbearable she has been seeing Dr. Finkelstein for pain management. He has even made house calls to spare her the pain of coming by ambulance to his office. Jessica has been treated with multiple pain medications, at the highest possible doses, as well as an implanted dilaudid pain pump, which delivers potent medication straight into her spine. Many doctors have told us that with the amount of medications Jessica was taking would be enough to “kill a horse”—yet they had little to no effect on her. If it wasn’t for Dr. Finkelstein trying to alleviate her constant, severe, unrelenting pain, I don’t know how she would have managed. He is very special to us as well.

Recently Jessica was transported by air ambulance to Tampa, Florida to see Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick, a world renowned RSD expert. Dr. Kirkpatrick told us that Jessica is one of the most debilitated patients he has ever seen.

Jessica getting into the air-ambulance to go see Dr. Kirkpatrick

Upon his testing and because Jessica's condition is so severe, Dr. Kirkpatrick is recommending the only treatment available that can possibly help relieve her suffering, and afford her some semblance of a “normal” life - the Ketamine Coma Procedure - a clinical trial that is being conducted in Monterrey, Mexico.

During this procedure Jessica will be put into a coma , with the hope that her nerves, brain and spinal cord will “reset” -so that her nervous system sends the correct signals to her brain.


Yes, this is a radical, scary treatment, however, for Jessica, "scary" is thinking that she could spend the rest of her life in this condition, unable to walk, eat, or take care of herself. Since all reasonable treatments have failed to help her, we feel we must try everything possible to help Jessica regain her life.

We understand that due to Jessica’s fragile condition, there is a high risk associated with this procedure. We are also aware that other patients with severe RSD like Jessica's have had success.

Jessica’s goal is to one day become a doctor. Our hope is that with this study she can have that chance. As her Mom, I know that she will be a great doctor because when a patient presents in her office and says “Doctor, I am in pain and words cannot express how bad it is” – my daughter –Dr. Jessica– will be able to say - :I know how you feel, I’ve been there too. So, take a seat and let me tell you a story”….

We are so thankful and feel so blessed to have been led to Dr. Kirkpatrick.

God is good and with his help guiding Dr. Cantu and Dr. Kirkpatrick, our hope is for Jessica to be able to return to us whole again and pain-free!