Like the launch of a rocket, last week the countdown leading to Day 0 began. The day I get my Anonymous Superhero’s stem cells – which is blast-off in transplant terms. I wish I could say that the preparations have been super exciting, but, as with much of this journey, it has been anti-climatic in its significance.
Arrived very early at the hospital to have a Hickman Line installed. A Hickman Line is a thin tube that is tunnelled under my skin and inserted through a vein in my chest, allowing drugs and fluids to be delivered direct to my bloodstream.
Hurry and wait was the flavour of the morning as the Consultant doing the procedure was over three hours late. He was at a meeting at Maple House – whatever that means. I hope it was an essential meeting as the delay and absence of information tested the patience of this patient. And put the remainder of the day behind schedule.
I then got on with the admin – completing forms, taking in a deluge of information. This was followed by an examination get the ‘all clear to proceed.’ I also had to sign the consent form and although the doctor made it as smooth as possible, he presented me with a daunting list of serious or frequently occurring risks:
Death, severe infection, CMV reactivation, graft versus host disease, specific organ toxicity (heart, lung, kidney, liver, gastric), graft rejection, disease relapse, poor blood counts, GI disturbance.
Nothing new but still I shut my eyes, sighed and then signed.
After the hectic pace of Hickman + admission, this was dull. Up early to start a whole day of poisoning by Campath and Fludarabine. A lot of sitting around on my backside, and when I could, snatching a few words with the friendly, but busy, nursing staff. This was followed by freedom in the evening to get ready for the following day.
DAY -2 (today)
Mephalan – the demon drug. The baddie. The one that kills my bone marrow to create space for the donor’s cells to move in and grow. This was a tough one, not in terms of the infusion but because it was the point of no return. The physically tough part of this drug arrives in a few days.
Tomorrow is what they define as a rest day, but I’m not convinced. Arriving at 8.30, I’ll be hooked up to the machine and given a strong 6-hour dose of immunosuppressant. They need me and my new friend to get along so are trying to make that introduction as easy as possible.
Tomorrow is also the last time I will be 100% me. That’s a curious notion. A stranger’s blood will turn into my blood. Their blood type will become mine.