Clearly it has been quite some time since my last post. I appreciate more and more each day the years of travel I was able to pull off in my 20s before settling down to a more grounded and stable existence in my home country, which I, by the way, also treasure. I miss traveling sometimes but also love not having to do the hard work of constantly moving and adjusting to different culture norms all the time. Ok, back to the post at hand. I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Panama City, Panama with my family. If you’re familiar with the weather in this region you might be wondering why we decided to go there during the rainy season. Our primary purpose was not a vacation but rather to take our son for his second round of stem cell treatments to help treat his cerebral palsy. His first round was back in 2009 in China. Although the China trip was very successful we wanted a closer and slightly less time consuming option which turned out to be in Panama.
Our first several days were our vacation. We attempted to walk around the city but there is a very real lack of sidewalks in this city as well as many areas of pavement that are so damaged that they might as well have not been paved at all. Having said that, there is a beautiful boardwalk that we walked down on the first day. One day we decided to do a tour around the city and the Panama Canal. We got to see the new locks that were recently opened in order to more than double the capacity of the canal. This new portion had just opened about a month before we arrived! One of our favorite parts in town was called Casco Viejo and we returned there on another day in order to see the museum which outlined the history of the Panama Canal. We also walked around the streets and bought some souvenirs and saw some traditional dancing in the center square. We had a reasonably priced lunch with some of the best mojitos I’ve ever had! We managed to pick the one day it didn’t rain to rent a car and drive slightly north to a beach called Santa Clara. The water as very warm and the beach was very clean. It was a wonderfully relaxing day. I also wanted to mention that we found the Panamanians to be incredibly hospitable. One of the servers at our hotel practically treated us like family each day at breakfast!
After a few days of relaxing and lots of sleeping our son started his stem cell treatments. He was not feeling so great the first day but tolerated the next 3 days of quick IV injections quite well. On the third day he started showing advancements. Before the treatments he was able to get off of couches or low beds by scooting off to his knees then falling to his butt. On this day, however, he scooted off a very high bed right on to his feet and was able to stand at the side of the bed as long as he stayed leaning on the bed. Later that day he picked himself off the floor and onto his knees and was leaning on the bed again, also something he has never been able to do unassisted.
I’ve been lucky enough to raise this child for the past 5 years or so of his 10 years of life and seeing his breakthroughs is truly one of the happiest things I’ve ever experienced. He’s such a beautiful soul. Thank you, Naji, for making this vacation such a memorable one. I probably won’t remember where we ate dinner or the facts I learned at the Panama Canal museum but I will never forget watching that video of you getting out of the bed to stand on your own two feet. I can’t wait to see your continued advancements. A special thanks to everyone who donated and/or otherwise lent support for this trip and his treatments. You have played a huge role in Naji’s life and we are all eternally grateful.