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#1 PRE-ADMISSION: testing, procedures, stem cell harvesting, more

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  • #1 PRE-ADMISSION: testing, procedures, stem cell harvesting, more

    I'll be recapping my full stem cell transplant in a series of posts....

    #1 PRE-ADMISSION: testing, procedures, stem cell harvesting, more

    The Texas Medical Center is the largest in the world (47 institutions employing over 73,000) and its flagship center, MD Anderson, is the leader in stem cell transplants. My pre-transplant testing included (but was not limited to) a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, hour-long spinal tap, two MRIs, extensive heart and lung tests, CT scan, disability measuring exams, math and coordination tests, and a baseline measure of my walking ability. With all of my effort I was able to squeak out 100 meters unaided (no walker, no canes), all thanks to my sis Karen’s incredible PT work pre-Houston.

    My last procedure prior to admission was the installation of my central line, or central venous catheter. It would be in place for over a month and a half and required daily care. This is a prime area for infection, and a leading cause of serious complications or death in hospitals. The trickiest part was keeping it dry in the shower using a combination of tape, cling wrap, and patience. Note that my skin is not as pasty as it looks… it’s far pastier (PIC).

    Laura then gave me daily injections of a drug to stimulate my stem cells to get out of my bone marrow and into the blood stream. The docs started harvesting my cells a few days later. It took only two days of having my blood circulate through a special machine (four hours per session) to collect enough stem cells. The CD34 cells were isolated and then frozen. I had about a week of downtime before I entered the hospital, so we checked out the beach. It’s nice to be near the ocean, but I quickly discovered that sand and walkers don’t mix all that well (PIC).

    At this point, the most dangerous phase of my treatment was less than two weeks away. I had no immune system and it will be compromised for months to come. The first three months are the riskiest, six months will be a nice milestone, but it takes a full year to get close to normal. But we’re confident all will go well. Especially after the fortune cookie I got on our first night in Houston (PIC).

    Of course Laura’s cookies (eaten on three consecutive nights) told a more thorough tale: 1) you will be in for a challenging time, 2) you will need to be patient, and 3) your hard work is going to pay off. Time will tell....

    Attached Files
    Dave Bexfield