Monday, January 09, 2006

try, try, try again

I arrived home about 30 minutes ago after an unexpectedly long day at the hospital. I went there early this morning for stem cell harvesting, but it turned into more than just that. It was an all day adventure.

I made it to the hospital a little after 8am this morning and after the stem cell technician, Manny, organized himself and gathered the necessary tools I was ready to go. Because I no longer had the catheter in my chest, my blood had to be drawn from an IV in my vein, which is what Manny sought to do. But as I will explain that proved to be a great challenge. Each of the 5 veins that he struck in my left arm collapsed and thus, it was impossible to form a good and usable line. When blood has been withdrawn from my arms in the past, the nurses commented generally on the stellar condition of my veins. However, today the situation was very different. Unable to find a workable vein in my left arm, Manny turned to my right arm and he didn't fair much better there. He was able to find and strike one vein successfully but the next vein he poked ended in failure. To no fault of his own, my veins just stunk today. Manny has an energetic and very likeable personality and he seems to be very experienced at what he does. The 1 of 7 success rate today wasn't representative of his skill. My veins just weren't cooperating. I was a bit hyper this morning and this, of course, didn't help when I tensed up as Manny entered the needles into my veins.

As you can imagine it was painful to be stuck 5 times in one arm and then twice more in the next. And these needles weren't those cute butterfly needles. No sir. They were large and scary. I know that I was wired up a bit going into the stem cell collection room this morning, which was a big part of my problem. Some days you have it. Well, I just didn't have it this morning.

With my arms having been used and abused, I appealed for mercy from Manny asking if I could return again the next day for a second go-a-round but his superiors were adament to see my stem cells collected today because of my high white cell count. I have continued to take the Neupogen shots daily and Manny told me that my white cell count was 68, which he says is fantastic. He said a white cell count of 5-9 is normal for healthy people. With such a high count, stem cells were bound to be collected in great numbers which is why I remained at the hospital for the another try at harvesting my stem cells.

The alternative to an IV in my arm was the insertion of a temporary catheter in my neck, which is exactly what was done. From Hematology-Oncology on the 3rd floor, I took an elevator up to the 5th floor to Interventional Radiology, where I was just a few days ago for the removal of my infected catheter. I feel like I'm starting to know the nurses and staff there too well now. I'm seeing them too frequently I joked to them. The doctors inserted a non-tunneled vascular catheter into the right side of my neck under localized anesthesia. It was painful most noticably when the doctors had to push the catheter into my neck, but it wasn't too terrible. The most fascinating part of the entire experience was being able to see the catheter moving in real time, as the doctor pushed it through my neck, on the x-ray monitor.

With a new catheter in place, Manny was able to draw my blood effortlessly. The collection took about three and a half hours during which time I slept, joked with Manny, read a bit, and talked to a family friend, EFG. He told me that he believed that the desired amount of stem cells had been harvested based upon my spectacular white cell count of 68. But I must return to the hospital again tomorrow morning at 8am in order to be sure. The lab report will not be ready until then. I'll learn tomorrow if enough stem cells had been harvested today in which case my temporary catheter will be removed most likely. If insufficient stem cells were not harvested, then more will be collected tomorrow.

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