So up to now my blog seemed more about all the fun and excitement you can experience in Moscow and less about the actual medical procedure. Well now we are finally in the stage where the fun of exploring ends and the actual medical procedure becomes more intense and serious. Over the past 3 days I’ve undergone IV steroid infusions in the mornings around 10:00am, then every night at 11:00pm and 3:00am I’d get G-CSF Stimulation Injections that were given sub-cutaneously in my arms. These injections are the important ones that stimulate the body into producing excess baby stem cells that the bone marrow pushes out into the blood stream. These injections do have side effects, the most common ones being bone pain and muscle pain. Knock on wood, I have yet to experience any side effects. Some people experience many strong side effects, others hardly any at all, it really just depends on the person.
Today was the day that three of us got our trusty little neck catheter installed, the other two people in our group get theirs tomorrow. Moscow is different compared to the other places around the world that do this procedure as they insert this line under local anesthetic as opposed to general, most other places knock you out, but not here. And after undergoing it, I really fail to see why any place needs to knock you out because the procedure is not painful and not that disturbing.
So onto the process of getting this thing stuck in me. So I was lucky #1 this morning and got to go first, I’m apparently always first on the list for everything, I’m special like that. I got ushered into the room and was told to remove my shirt and shoes, bra could stay on, clothes really do seem to be optional here, lol. I was told to lay down on a table covered with a white cloth. They had me lay on my back and keep my hands right next to my side, then they asked me to turn my head over to the left side and keep it there. The doctor doing this could speak some English so he was describing everything he was doing the entire time and the nurse was holding my left hand the whole time. First he started off by touching my neck and feeling where all my veins were, he would push down in certain places, guessing that was to help him figure out the best place to stab me. Then he got out all the disinfectant and cleaning solution and scrubbed down my entire neck with several different swabs of various colored liquids. Then they covered my face and body with a sheet, leaving only the area open that they were working on and started the process. He told me that I would feel some pricks as he injected the local anesthetic in to numb the area. Really that was probably the worst part for me just because my neck area is more sensitive. After that was done I could tell the whole area was going numb, always a good sign. Then he warned me that he would be pushing down harder on my neck several times before and during the process of inserting this catheter. I was told not to move at all during this time. I felt a gentle tug on my neck and then some pressure when he was pushing down on various parts on my neck and within a couple of minutes he said it was in place and he just needed to tape everything in place. He cleaned up the rest of my neck, got everything taped in place, gave me a sexy headcovering to keep my tubes from flopping around, and I was on my way. Whole thing from start to finish was around 20 minutes and honestly the worst part was having to keep my head turned over to the left the entire time, really gives you a huge crink in the neck when you sit up.
At that time I was allowed to go chill in the lounge on the 4th floor to wait for the other two to finish up. Once the three of us were finished we headed way down into the basement tunnels and popped up on the other side of the hospital to get X-rays taken of our chest to ensure the lines were in the right place. Then we were allowed back to our rooms to recover. Dr. F came by shortly later to show me my X-ray and pointed out where my line was in position to my heart and lungs, pretty neat to see as it is nestled right in there amongst all that. He said it was placed perfectly.
A little while later the nurse came in to test out my new lines, I got my final infusion of IV steroids in them, and once those were finished, I also got a pain killing injection inserted in the line and that was a nice bonus, the pain that I did have soon went away.
All in all the whole process wasn’t that bad. It seems scary going in, but it’s not that bad. For the first hour or so after it is inserted it does feel uncomfortable, but once the pain goes down around the injection site it’s not too bad. A bit painful when eating and swallowing and when moving my head a certain way but not too bad and that seems to be disappearing more and more as the day progresses. Towards the end of the evening around 5:00pm I started having some pretty good flushing going on in my face and neck and hot flashes, I’m guessing left over effects from the steroids which often cause that, since this infusion was into a major vein near the heart, it can affect you a bit more. I opted to open all the windows in my room and walk around outside for a bit. After coming back in the hospital I went down to the nurses desk on my floor and requested another pain killing shot, which they gave me and within a few minutes all my symptoms were gone and the pain was almost non-existent again. I also opted to request another sleeping pill tonight since it did seem to help last night, and with this thing in my neck I’m sure sleeping will be rough, plus the 2 wake ups for stimulation injections are not the easiest to fall back asleep after.
Now the main purpose for this neck catheter is for collecting the stem cells tomorrow. Bright and early tomorrow morning we will have a machine come into our rooms and we will be hooked up to this machine for 5-6 hours. Our blood will cycle through this machine and it will pull out all the extra baby stem cells our bodies have been producing over the past few days. The goal is to get enough in one day, but it can take up to 2-3 days. Now during this collection time we are not allowed to leave our beds at all, we are trapped there. We can have our electronics or other activities but other than that, no leaving the bed, including potty breaks. So this is one of the days it is recommended that you wear an adult diaper of some type, just in case you have an accident, break out the depends!!!
Of course I have pictures of what the outcome of this line looks like and here they are:
Now one thing that people recommend to bring with them, which I agree with, is soft hats of some sort that can hold these lines in place so they aren’t flopping around everywhere. Beanies, stocking caps, other misc. caps, etc. Whatever you can keep on your head that you can tuck these little lines underneath really helps a lot. You can see me wearing one in my last picture when I’m getting my steroids.
So that was my fun and exciting day, so now let’s talk about the other fun topic here in Moscow, the food. So today is one of the first days in quite a while that I will be eating all 4 meals here today and so far today the food hasn’t been too bad, or maybe I’m still ravenous from the steroids, hard to say. Breakfast #1 was some type of oatmeal, bread and cheese. I was hungry and downed it all. Breakfast #2 was 2 cooked apples, hardboiled egg, chunk of beef and plum tea. I ate it all but the apples, still trying to figure out how to get them down as they have zero flavor, but I have a future plan for them. Here’s pics of the morning meals.
Lunch wasn’t too bad today. Cream of broccoli soup with the beef stew mixture on a plate with buckwheat, and bread. I typically mix the beef stew mixture into the buckwheat and then just down it that way, it really is the only way I can manage to get the buckwheat down as it has such an odd taste. But compared to some meals, it was pretty pleasant. Dinner was pretty basic tonight. Mashed potatoes, white fish steaks, bread, cookies and a tea bag. Not too bad for the day really. Pics of those meals.
And that concludes today. I’ll finish up the day with my last set of stimulation injections tonight at around 11:00pm and 3:00am. And then tomorrow the process really gets started with the stem cell collection. Really hoping that they can get enough out of me in the first day so I don’t have to do it a second day, fingers crossed!!!!