Back At The PGH

I just want to let everyone know that John is home from the hospital and feeling better. We are doing an IV antibiotic at home to try and get rid of the pesky pneumonia. John is composing an update that will give his version of the events of the past week in detail. Thank you so much to everyone who has sent along words of encouragement.


Posted Jul 24, 2008 12:28pm

I’m back.

I’ve not been well. I am angry that my health caused me to interrupt the story at a critical point. I’ll try to slowly bring everyone up to date.

On Thursday, the 17th, before I alerted my clinic team of the fever, I’d seriously considered waiting. The day was ending; my temperature was only a few points above the limit. If I called, others would have to miss their dinner. I felt awful physically. Now, I’d pour some guilt into the sludge of multiple myeloma. My role on the team is simple: let them call the shots.

The fever required hospitalization. All transplant patients from the SCCA go to the University of Washington Medical Center. Two floors are dedicated for immune suppressed treatment. I became part of a new team. At the SCCA, I had immediate access to my team, yet the freedom to do my thing. At the UW, my team had access to me, and, while I could roam, the corral was small and the fence was high.

By Friday, a quick bounce back boded well for a short stay. By Friday afternoon and the discovery of pneumonia in a chest X-ray, that hope was dashed. A neutropenic patient (low white blood cells) with pneumonia stays hospitalized until they go 24 hours without a fever. I flunked the temp portion of my vitals for the next 72 hours.

I was hooked up to that pole for five days. What the hell am I smiling about?
I was hooked up to that pole for five days. What the hell am I smiling about?

In the meantime, a CT-Scan followed up on the X-ray. It confirmed the pneumonia but added more suspicion to the condition of my lungs. Eventually, the team chose observation over further testing.

I had short-term problems with the pneumonia plus the neutropenia. Then there was the critical timing of the stem cell collection. The window of opportunity was small. My long-term health depended upon a successful transplant. I felt better but anxious about the collection. Due to low red blood cell counts, I received four units of RBCs.

As Marilyn reported, the collection of my stem cells went well. As the optimum moment nears, a small vial of blood is drawn. The stem cells in this sample are counted. From this information and given my height and weight, the apheresis technicians can estimate how many sittings may be required to attain enough cells for two transplants. Given my numbers there was confidence this could be done at a single sitting.

Stem cells are collecting up top. My blood circulated through this machine three times.

The process began at 8:40 AM and was complete by 11:30 AM. At 5:00 PM, I learned they had collected 17.25 million stem cells. The goal was 10 million, which is enough for two transplants. Now, those cells sit in a freezer stored at -180 degrees Celsius.

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