Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Transplant for the Cure - Day Zero

Nurse Carol was preparing the apheresis machine for the
stem cell harvest.L
Day zero began early on Tuesday, November 17. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and my ear was hurting. I ate a few crackers and took an Extra Strength Tylenol before going back to bed.

My appointment at the apheresis department in the University of Kansas Medical Center was at 7:00am. It was a cool, rainy morning and the traffic was heavy on our way to the hospital. Lois dropped me off at the front entrance, and then took Karen over to the BMT Clinic for her appointment. I walked in the door of the apheresis department at exactly 7:00am.

A nurse named Carol greeted me led me to the room where the stem cell harvest would take place. I sat down in a dentist-style chair, and Nurse Carol immediately started checking the veins in my arms. If the veins were not sufficient, I would be required to have a line surgically placed in my neck. I was very relieved to learn that the stem cells would be taken from the veins in my arms.

The apheresis machine that filtered the stem cell from my blood.
I was anxious about this entire process. Lois came back to the hospital after she left Karen at the Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic. Nurse Carol was a real pro and made me feel completely relaxed. She placed IV needles in both my arms very quickly and with very little pain. My blood would be drawn out of the needle in my left arm, the machine would filter out the stem cells, and then the blood would be returned to me through the needle in my right arm. I had to keep my left arm completely still, but I was allowed to move my right arm a small amount. The collection began at 8:30am.

Bag of stem cells harvested from
my blood.
I learned that the apheresis harvest procedure usually takes about 4 hours. However, Karen's doctor wanted some extra stem cells to freeze for later use. I was not asked if I was willing to stay on the machine an additional hour, the doctor made that decision for me.

The collection process went smoothly. There were several times when my face and hands started tingling. Nurse Carol added more calcium to my IV when I told her about the tingling. The last hour was the most uncomfortable. I had to have Lois take my shoes off because my feet were swelling.

The apheresis machine was shut down a few minutes past 1:30pm. I was running a low grade fever and was still taking the antibiotics for my earache and sinus infection. I was told that my illness did not have an adverse effect on the stem cell collection.

The procedure was over and much easier than I imagined it would be. Nurse Carol did an outstanding job and I am so glad that Lois was with me during the entire process.

Karen received her stem cell transplant between 9:30 and 11:30pm. A message written on the white board in the room said, "Day 0 - Happy Cell Day, Karen!" The entire process was done outpatient and we all got back to Lois' house at midnight.

The transplant was complete.

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