November 18, 2010
Flying 11,853 miles away from home, laying flat on one’s back for six hours at a time and living in a culture that is completely opposite from the one that is familiar is exactly what Jinger Raney, sophomore public relations major, did this past month.
Raney was born with loss of hearing in both of her ears, causing her to wear hearing aids for most of her life.
“I used to be embarrassed about wearing my hearing aids,” said Raney, “I would get up early every morning and fix my hair, I hardly ever wore my hair up in a pony tail.”
Although the past had not always been easy for Raney, her trip to China was anticipated, and long overdue.
Raney, and her mother, Jonna Raney, left Oklahoma City at 5:00 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2010, and landed in Beijing at 12:00 a.m. on Sept. 26.
“We had a five hour drive from Beijing to Shijiazhuang, so we didn’t get any sleep,” said Raney. “As soon as I got there, they took six samples of blood and had me do a bunch of other tests. It was exhausting.”
The first thing Raney noticed upon arriving in China was how different it is from the United States.
“The first thing I noticed when I got to Shijiazhuang, China was how poor the town was,” said Raney. “It wasn’t a town that had a lot of tourists, so the people there stared at us because they don’t ever see foreigners. Many of the people would sneak pictures of me with their phones and try to touch me because blonde hair and blue eyes are lucky.”
Once arriving at the hospital, where Raney would be receiving her treatments, as well as staying, the doctors began the process of transferring stem cells into her body.
“I had a total of six stem cell injections. One was through an IV, and the over five were lumbar punctures in my back,” said Raney.
Raney had to lie flat on her back for six hours after each lumbar puncture.
“The IV didn’t hurt at all, they gave me medicine to put me to sleep before each lumbar puncture, but a few times they didn’t wait until I was asleep, so those did hurt,” said Raney.
The only side effect that Raney noticed after her injections were severe headaches.
“I have never experienced that bad of a headache,” said Raney. “The doctors had to give me two large bottles of saline to get rid of them. Despite my pain, the doctors said it was a good thing that I had headaches, because that meant the stems cells were working.”
Raney was the first patient to ever be treated in Shijiazhuang, China for hearing loss, and there have only been 12 other patients in the world who were treated for the same contrition. When Raney was not receiving her treatments, she was enjoying China.
“We were able to get massages with other patients at the hospital, we did a lot of shopping and climbed the Great Wall of China.” said Raney.
This trip was not only to receive stem cell injections, but it was also a little vacation. Although Raney was able to get out and about to see China, she spent most of her time at the hospital recovering from each treatment.
The stem cell treatments were not expected to work immediately, but Raney must have been an exceptional patient.
“Based on my first hearing test when I got there, and the one I had before I left China there was a 10 decibel improvement,” Raney said. “This was very good news since the doctors didn’t expect any improvement until at least six months. I still need about 50 more decibels to be at the normal range, but improvement is still being seen and it could continue to improve for up to a year.”
Although Raney did not see improvement immediately herself, her mom said that she noticed a little bit of improvement right after treatments.
Raney has seen a little improvement since returning home from China.
“I am not allowed to have sweets for a whole year, and I have to eat as healthy as possible,” said Raney. “ I also have to exercise as much as possible in order to keep the stem cells healthy.” Maintaining her sweet intake and keeping her body as healthy as possible is an important key for Raney in order for her new stem cells to do the job they are supposed to do.
Raney’s experience was one that she will never forget.
“I would absolutely do it again,” said Raney, “I met amazing people who I will never forget and will always stay in contact with.”
The time away was not always pleasant for Raney, but in the long run this experience will hopefully be completely worth it.
Raney said she is excited to see what her future holds as far as her hearing is concerned. The doctors are hopeful to see improvement, making her entire trip to China worthwhile.