Mechanics and Magicians

The genius mechanic has done his job, now its time for the magic ! Yesterday Dr Heinrich Staecker performed my gene therapy procedure. He is the one who designed how to surgically infuse the inner ear with the gene carrying virus. For the record, I feel pretty good after 24hrs. Better than anticipated..even went out for some Kansas City BBQ for lunch !

For me, the patient, it has been relatively routine. What they did during my morning nap yesterday was anything but. To my mind, the operation itself was a miracle of science and human skill.

Dr Staecker began with surgically opening my eardrum and laying it back as a flap. Then when he could see the Cochlea, he used a Co2 Laser to burn a pinhole sized port into my inner ear though what is called the small oval. The thinnest part. Then a tiny stainless steel catheter was inserted through that pinhole. A computerized pump, loaded with the fluid containing the gene-carrying virus, proceeded to infuse or “dose” my inner ear with a single drop of fluid over the course of 3 min. Slowly !

Closing up becomes a little tricky, since one cannot suture the eardrum back in place. So after stealing a bit of fatty tissue from behind my ear (he used that to “plug up” the laser pinhole) Dr Staecker used a material called Gelfoam* above and below the eardrum to “sandwich it in place. Over time the, Gelfoam, will absorb and/or sluff off. At that point I will hopefully have a normal sealed eardrum. In a few weeks we’ll know. In the meantime I remain in Kansas City for the next two weeks and go through full lab exams every 48 hrs. Blood, EKG, nasal swab, saliva sample, urine etc. Looking for any abnormal changes and most importantly, whether any of the genes have “migrated” someplace they are not supposed to be.

Here comes the Magic part. At that point, I will begin a series of repeat visits for hearing tests to watch for any measureable improvement at any frequencies in my hearing. These manufactured genes hopefully will “instruct” the damaged hair cells in my ears to begin repairing themselves….. let’s hope they are still good at following orders.

I now am the 20th human being to receive this gene therapy and even I owe a debt of gratitude to those who went before me. Those earlier in the trial were helping to finalize the “dosing” volume and amount of gene carrying material. They helped fine- tune the surgical procedure. I benefit from their courage. And it’s all still pretty amazing to me that I ended up here.

• Gelfoam® Pfizer
GELFOAM Sterile Sponge is a medical device intended for application to bleeding surfaces as a hemostatic. It is a water-insoluble, off-white, nonelastic, porous, pliable product prepared from purified pork Skin Gelatin USP Granules and Water for Injection, USP. It may be cut without fraying and is able to absorb and hold within its interstices, many times its weight of blood and other fluids. GELFOAM Sterile Sponge has hemostatic properties. While its mode of action is not fully understood, its effect appears to be more physical than the result of altering the blood clotting mechanism. When not used in excessive amounts, GELFOAM is absorbed completely, with little tissue reaction. This absorption is dependent upon several factors, including the amount used, degree of saturation with blood or other fluids, and the site of use. When placed in soft tissues, GELFOAM is usually absorbed completely within four to six weeks, without inducing excessive scar tissue. When applied to bleeding nasal, rectal, or vaginal mucosa, it liquefies within two to five days