A head-on collision changed the lives of 16-year-old Brandy Moss of Hotchkiss and her family in an instant. Brandy was paralyzed and was told that not only would she never walk again, she would not be able to use her arms and hands.
To be closer to doctors and therapy, the Moss family moved to Delta.
Now the three-year journey has led Brandy and her mother, Tammy Moss, to Panama City, Panama, where leading-edge stem cell injections are helping people regain function after spinal cord injuries. Thankfully, the original doctors were wrong, and Brandy can eat, move her arms and make small movements with her fingers. But she is hoping for more. The following is but a small slice of their courageous experience that I witnessed last week with them in Panama.
We step outside the cool-conditioned space of our Panama City high rise and feel the heaviness of the wet, hot air. It hits us in the face as if we stepped into a steam sauna. The constant chatter of the horns from rushing cars and buses is disorienting. They use them to communicate everything from a short "Hello wanna ride?" to longer outbursts of, "Get out of my way!" The horns are yet another language to get comfortable with in this foreign land.
Focus. The goal at hand seems simple enough. All girls enjoy a trip to the mall. It's only six blocks away or so. Surely it can't take too long. In a city of more than two million people, it's perplexing that there are no private or public means of transportation for someone with Brandy's needs outside of the contracted company for the stem cell clinics. Tackling the multi-level, cracked walkways on foot and wheelchair will be our only way.
Brandy's first injections were Friday, two days ago. She'll have many more over the next few weeks, and they are working her hard in therapy. She's gone through bone marrow harvesting and massive blood exchange to extract her own stem cells. These and cells from donated umbilical cords will serve as the foundation God will use to help her heal. The cells are injected directly into the intrathecal space that surrounds the spinal cord and brain and also into her veins.
Yesterday she suffered a horrific headache. Headaches are a side effect with any spinal injection. They urge all the patients to drink a LOT of water to avoid them. Brandy and her mom are so careful to do absolutely everything that is suggested to avoid complications, so they were disappointed when the headaches came. Brandy was miserable, and her momma was understandably worried. The nurse came. It was something to ride out, to let pass like so many other minutes and hours or weeks and months they've strived to survive over the past three years. They've become champions at this waiting game, while holding steadfast to the notion of hope and forward thought.
To imagine what they've been through brings nauseating perspective, the counting of simple blessings. Hanging on to persistence and creative necessity, Tammy and Brandy have gradually transformed tasks most of us take for granted into their own successful daily routine. Their love for each other is moving. Eating, primping, using Facebook, shifting positions to avoid bed sores and so much more, they have mastered with Brandy doing as much of it herself as she can.
But, now, as with so many of their days, a new challenge lays before them — get this girl to the mall! We'll go for a happy girl's day diversion. To the mall ... a magical land of elevators and flat-surfaced floors with air conditioning! The trek to the mall is riddled with deep cracks, grates, loose manholes, flooding water (from who knows where) and narrow, railed passages with people coming and going. The heat and humidity are stifling. Reminiscent of a cross-country sky maze, every step requires assessment. Occasionally we dead-end where we have to turn around to find a viable way. Sometimes the only way to cross a ledge is for Tammy to lift the back of the chair as I lift the front, then we move into the multiple lanes of oncoming traffic. The constant stream of cars doesn't seem to notice us, though I purposely wore bright colors. But, more importantly, we have to be sure Brandy doesn't fall out of her chair. Her ability to keep herself in her chair is one of the things we're hopeful will return with these procedures. Braces and our constant contact protect her from falling.
Even rolling on uneven ground, there is absolute necessity to hold her steady in the chair. What if she tipped out into the traffic? Of the hundreds of hot frowning Panamanian people who hurriedly pass us coming and going, only two kind souls offer assistance, and most shoot annoyed looks our way. It took about an hour to go the six blocks.
The trip equates to a mountain hike over treacherous terrain where the climax is the summit near a cool, clear cascade of water, the carrot being the picnic and spectacular view or, in this case, the food court on the fourth floor of the mall, along with racks of shoes, bobbles and bling that seem to reach for miles on easily-maneuvered floors. The mall is mostly cool and, other than slow elevators, some aisles too narrow for the chair and long lines that force Tammy to give up on McDonald's, the giggling girly bonding over shopping and eating was worth every effort.
One Columbian man who speaks no English is very curious and shows up in unexpected places. At each place he and I play charades, as he asks a question or two about Brandy. We feel nearly stalked, but his interest is sincere. His face softens when he finally understands. He crosses his arms across his chest, head bowed and shaking. I explain Brandy's "esperanza" (hope) to walk again. "Por favor, su habla Dios mucho para mi amiga." Please talk to God for my friend.
Brandy and her mother Tammy will be in Panama until the first part of August having injections every few days. There is good reason to think their inspiring persistence and patience will be rewarded with results from this promising, new experimental procedure. Since last week, Brandy has felt burning in her legs and tingling in her feet! The best is yet to come. It was an honor to have the opportunity to experience some of this with them.blog comments powered by Disqus