November 22, 2020 – Toronto. It was exactly one year ago today that I had my second stem cell transplant and Munira Version 3.0 was born.
I like this version. She is feisty, resilient and courageous. She gets into trouble sometimes because she doesn’t always follow the rules. She is forging her own path, unapologetically. She is prone to asking for forgiveness, rather than permission. She is strong in living her values.
She is different from Version 2.0 that made her debut on Feb 15, 2013. Munira Version 2.0 was known for being kind and compassionate, a bit weary from the wounds. She approached life with grace and gratitude, just thankful to be alive. It took her a while to find her place and come into her own.
Alas, after 6 ½ years, Version 2.0 started to slow down, the hardware started to malfunction. Dr. Rodger Tiedemann, the technical wizard in charge, made the call that a major upgrade was sorely required. The goal of the upgrade was to keep the system functional for another 3 to 3 ½ years.
It took three to four months to create the conditions for the upgrade – x-rays, bone scans, pet scans, chemotherapy, and minor surgeries to implant the devices required to deliver the upgrade. Oh, and the usual extensive tests to make sure the heart and other important organs – even the jaw and teeth – can withstand the reset.
Once everything checked out, the date for the upgrade was finally determined – November 22, 2019. But first, a complete reboot of the system was required. So, the CTRL-ALT-DEL was performed using the chemotherapy drug, Melphalan, on November 20, 2019 at the Princess Margaret outpatient autologous transplant unit.
Shayne arrived from Nairobi to be witness to this miracle of science. Sabrina and Afzal face-timed from Kuwait. Nagib held my hand. Stem cells extracted in 2013 from the original version of Munira were brought into the unit by Millie in a metal drum, frozen at -170°C. The installation of the stem cells was pretty routine, and I went home.
Alas, after the reboot but before the stem cells could attach, my system was vulnerable to attacks from bacteria and viruses that can invade the bloodstream. Indeed, I ended up in hospital to treat two such malicious malware. The CPU was under attack as the motherboard suffered from a double dose of melphalan and two infections. Blood levels were at a critical level – hemoglobin, white cells, platelets and neutrophils were dropping fast to zero.
In came the cavalry, in the form of Sabrina, who flew in from Nairobi, and surprised me at my bedside when I was at my lowest. With Sabrina’s encouragement, Munira Version 3.0 started to rise up and fight back. She took her time to get strong and resilient. And she improved her functionality every day. After a few days, Version 3.0 rose up to show her character and knocked down the viruses, and was able to go home to celebrate the holidays.
Through the late winter, spring and summer, despite a global attack from a very serious, once in a one-hundred year virus, known as SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19, a deadly virus especially for immuno-compromised systems), Munira Version 3.0 continued to improve rapidly. Today, she celebrates her first birthday, safe and sound, completely comfortable in her own skin.
Thank you from Munira Version 3.0. I honour you for keeping me alive. And, thank you to Dr. Tiedemann, Nurse Practitioners Leeping and Christina, Nurses Tasha and all the other exceptional nurses, my family, friends and all of you out there in the world wide web.