On my 28th birthday in July 1999, I boarded a flight to Tijuana to meet the renegade doctor for a two-week stay in his clinic. Only Matt knew where I was going; I didn’t tell friends and family. I didn’t want anyone to worry, and I didn’t want any negative input. Other times when I’d mentioned trying experimental treatments or wanting to progress beyond my level of injury, I usually got one of three reactions from my fellow gimps:
“You’re chasing a pipe dream!”
“You’re wasting your time and money!”
“Just be in a chair, like us. Play wheelchair sports and accept that
you’re a quad. You are a quad!”
I wasn’t going to accept it. I was manifesting a different future for myself.
I am walking. I am walking. I am walking.
I had no idea what to expect when I got to Mexico. I didn’t know anything about the experimental or newfangled stuff they were doing down there. It turned out that the clinic itself was a white stucco house—formerly the home of a drug dealer—surrounded by a high, concrete wall. My quarters were very nice—a master bedroom with
my own bathroom, and a small living room.
On the first day I arrived, I got blood tests, x-rays, and an MRI; then I had a meeting with the man himself. Dr. B had long silver hair and a handlebar mustache, and wore a soft paisley vest—he was a flower-child version of Albert Einstein. He looked at my blood and showed it to me through a dark-field microscope, and then showed me my MRI pictures. His protocol was to show patients what their blood reveals to be wrong with them and then tell them how he was going to treat it. But as I sat in his office, he was flummoxed.
“I don’t know what I can do for you, if anything,” he said. “I’m going to hand you over to my colleague, Dr. Mondo. Let’s see what he can do.”
Along with Dr. B, Mondo was doing innovative, mysterious work with “cytokines”—the proteins in our body involved with cell signaling and behavior. Or something. He wasn’t actually a medical doctor, he admitted to me at one point; he was a scientist. I didn’t care what he was if his treatments worked.
Mondo said that he was going to look at my blood every day to determine what combination of remedies to give me that day and where. He showed me my blood through the microscope. “See, your blood looks tired and the cells are clumping together and moving very slowly,” he explained. “And the outer membranes are wavy
instead of nicely rounded, which is what we want.”
The next day, I lay down on my back on a hospital-style table in his office, and he injected me with “Enderlein remedies”—named after the German scientist who’d invented them, Günther Enderlein, Ph.D. Yet it wasn’t just one shot, in my arm; Mondo injected needles up and down my body. In my mouth, in my throat, on my head and
neck, in my scars . . . every crazy-ass place he could find, he stuck a needle. There were maybe 30 shots in all, and they hurt like hell.
Mondo was so polite and compassionate, he apologized each time he stuck the needle into me. Yeah, there was no way this guy was a medical doctor.
“I’m sorry!” he’d say, in his thick Mexican accent, after each stabbing.
“No pain,” I’d squeak, “no gain!”
Mondo nicknamed me his “Little German” because I was so blonde and tough and had a German last name. And since he didn’t know or understand all the best English cuss words, I taught him a choice few and explained in detail what they meant.
“Little German,” he’d say, when we were done with the shots for the day, “you have a sweet face, but your mouth doesn’t match it.”
After that first session, I began using a Hindu mantra I’d learned from a healer I met back at that health expo two years earlier: Om Namah Shivaya. I was told that it was associated with the qualities of divine love, grace, and blissfulness, and it did calm me down and help ease the stabbing pain. So bring it on, Dr. Frankenstein.
Sometimes the mantra didn’t help, though. One day something went horribly wrong after my injections. My head began to pound after I got back to my room. I went into the bathroom thinking if I emptied my bladder and bowels, I would feel better. But as I sat on the toilet, my head felt like it was going to explode, and I started sobbing. Another patient heard me and alerted Mondo, who came rushing to my rescue and flung open the bathroom door with a giant needle in his hand. As I sat on the toilet with my pants around my ankles, wailing, he jabbed it into my head, and moments later the pain subsided.
Another day, Mondo had instructed the nurses to give me an injection intramuscularly, but by accident they gave it to me intravenously and then desperately tried to flush it out of my system right away. They searched in vain to find a vein to get IV fluids into me but couldn’t find one. I started having a very bad reaction, and Mondo made a move to stab me in the jugular, but found a regular vein just in time.
After everyone left the room, I lay on the table and hurled everywhere, puking all over myself. Oh my God, I thought, I’m dying. No potential gain is worth this agony. And there may be no gain at all! What
if there isn’t?
I soon got my answer. A few days later, about two weeks into my stay, I was in the shower and had turned off the water when I felt ants crawling down my back.
Wait a minute. I don’t feel it when ants crawl on my back. I don’t feel anything on my back! I don’t have sensation there!
I turned the water on and off again and felt that same feeling again. It’s the water trickling down my back!
I could feel sensation where I hadn’t felt any for nine years! Whatever they were injecting in me was working! I was so euphoric, I was crying and laughing at the same time. I spent the next several minutes in the shower, turning the water on and off, simply to feel the sensation. Then I dried off and got dressed as quickly as I could, and rushed over to the doctors’ offices to tell them what had happened. I found them huddled over a microscope looking at a drop of my blood on a slide.
“I have great news!” I yelled, bursting into the room. What I didn’t know was that Mondo had been watching that drop of blood for a few days. Right at the same time that I was feeling the trickling in the shower, they were all simultaneously watching “dendrites” growing in my blood, and were already off-the-wall excited before I stormed in. I peered through the microscope myself, and what I saw looked like the pictures of nerves from my school biology textbooks. When we looked at the same drop of blood the next day, the dendrites had grown even more.
I intended to stay only two weeks, but I was so excited about my new sensation that I couldn’t leave and wanted more treatments.
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