Amazingly this morning I woke up quite refreshed, shocking really given my little alien contraption stuck in my neck. I did opt to get another pain medication injection in my neck line before I headed to bed and that really did help. I was having some pretty good flushing and hot flashes thanks to the residual IV steroids, along with just the pain around the injection site. This line isn’t the smallest thing, so it obviously hurts. I also opted to take one of the sleeping tablets and I think that helped as well. I ended up sleeping with both my pillows stacked on top of each other and laying on my side with my little alien facing up towards the ceiling. I konked out in no time. I was woken up at 11pm and 3am for my stimulation injections but I managed to fall asleep right after them, so no big deal.
This morning when I woke up I opted to skip my morning shower and just hang out until the process was going to begin. I had made sure all my electronic devices were fully charged ahead of time, since they are my forms of entertainment while all this is happening. And then the whole process started…
First Dr. Fedorenko came in around 7:00am and asked if I was ready to get started, well of course I am, just want it done and over with! Lucky me again, always the first in the group to start everything! He started out by telling me I have approximately 3.9 liters of blood in my body. And then in he comes pushing this larger machine that will filter my blood and pull out all the brand new baby stem cells my body has been producing thanks to the stimulation shots. He discussed all about how the machine works and what it does and made sure to point out to me that it is made in Massachusetts in the USA, I think I got that part added on since I’m the only American over here right now, lol. So then he pulled out all sorts of tubes and started hooking up the machine, it seems much more complex then it probably is. Then he hooked me up to the machine, turned it on, and the fun begins. My blood goes through all sorts of things, it seperates out platelets and blood, and then eventually the stem cells get collected in a bag down on the opposite end of the machine as where I am sitting and then at some point in time, all the rest of my blood gets returned to me. Quite a process. Here’s some pics of the process, click on the pictures for description:
Now from start to finish this is about a 6 hour procedure. During this time you are not allowed to leave your bed, so be prepared. Make sure you use the bathroom prior to this starting. They do also provide you with an adult diaper to wear unless you opt to bring your own. I listened to past patients advice and brought my own, seems much more comfortable than the ones provided. But if you do have bladder issues, it probably is a very important step to ensure you are wearing one. But during your downtime, you can do whatever you want as long as you are sitting/laying pretty still and not leaving the bed. It’s a perfect time to catch up on facebook, blogging, watching movies, chatting with people at home, reading a book, or taking a nap. You can even be eating food and drinking water during this time, just ensure it is close to your bed at the time. And just saying, I never used my diaper, score one for me!
Side effects from this procedure. Dr. F did warn me that you could have some minor side effects from this procedure, normal side effects are tingling/numbness in the lips and chin and then in fingers and toes. Just part of the process with all your blood being recirculated around. So far I’ve had all those symptoms and they aren’t bad, not really even unpleasant, just a bit annoying. But such is life and it’s worth it in the end.
Now throughout this process Dr. F is constantly popping in to see how you are doing and giving updates on how far along you are in the collection process. Nurses randomly pop in as well to see how things are going. If you ever have any questions or hear beeping you just have to hit your call button and someone will show up right away. My entire process took a little longer today because apparently my blood is thicker than most so I used more anti-coagulant, and that made the machine take longer to process everything, I’m just that awesome. But in the end I finished up right around the 6 hour mark at 1:00pm. After I was all unhooked from the machine the nurse did bring in another bottle of IV steroids to run through my line. Once that was done I was free to relax for a bit, and trust me after laying in one spot for 6 hours, you want to move around and get more comfortable.
So then we wait for results. You need to reach the goal of 2 million or more hematopoietic stem cells per kilogram of body weight, if you miss that mark you have to go through another day of 6 hour collection, and some people even have to go 3 days. But lucky me I hit my mark and was done after today. I produced approximately 2.41 million stem cells per kilogram so I’m done with that process. The other two patients in my group also hit the mark and finished today as well. The plus side of reaching the mark after the first day, this evil giant neck catheter gets to come out!!! Woohoo!
Then out comes the neck catheter. I can honestly say I didn’t really know what to expect on the removal process, but a couple ladies who are a week ahead of us, told us how it worked and how it can be quite bloody, so we had some ideas going in. Basically the nurse comes in your room, has you lay on your side, she untapes the catheter and cuts some of the lines, then tells you to breathe in deep and exhale a couple times, and on the last exhale she yanks it out flinging some blood around and slaps some gauze on the hole. She packed the gauze in there pretty good and puts more over the top and tapes it down and instructs you to tightly keep your fingers on it for 30 minutes while lying down the whole time. Then she held up the catheter for a picture opportunity, which it was still dripping a bit of blood. Then about 30 minutes later she came back in, unwrapped the wound, sprayed a bunch more antiseptic on the wound, which burned like hell, and then repacked it and taped it up. All in all it really wasn’t that painful, and it was a relief to have it removed. But you can see in the pics with the bad lighting, just how long this catheter is, she holding the top and it dangles below her arm, pretty freaking big!!!
Also today before we got the catheters removed, we got to celebrate a stemmie birthday party for the 3 ladies who are a week ahead of us in the process. They just got their stem cells returned to them today. 2 Australians and 1 Norwegian. The ceremony is quite nice and Dr. F presents an Iris pin to each person and does a whole little talk about it. Then they get to throw the remainder of the liquid nitrogen down the hallway, fun times! Then we all spent some time hanging out in the lounge getting to know each other more and eating all the tasty goodies.
So all in all, it really was quite a crazy intense day. I also ended up getting moved into my third room since I’ve been here and this will be the final room I stay in which will also turn into my isolation room when I reach that stage. I will post more about that in my blog post tomorrow. Finished up the evening with a short shopping trip to the local grocery store with my British HSCT buddy to get some snacks for our upcoming chemo session, as we were advised that Sprite and potato chips are good things to munch on when things get too rough. We basically have a day off tomorrow to relax, minus getting our new smaller neck lines installed for the chemo which starts Friday. So hopefully it will be a calm day. The other 2 ladies in our group of 5 will be getting their stem cells extracted tomorrow, hopefully they both can hit their goals in 1 day as well.
Now like always I must discuss the food, I mean really, everyone who comes to Russia is so concerned about the food, I think for some people it’s more horrifying than the procedure itself. I really didn’t touch much of either of my 2 breakfast meals this morning, mainly because I was hooked up to the machine and physically couldn’t access my food, but I ate what was still appealing when I was all finished up. So Breakfast #1 consisted of some type of oatmeal, bread, and a hard-boiled egg. Breakfast #2 consisted of a chunk of beef, 2 cooked apples, baby yogurt and plum tea. I ended up eating the hard-boiled egg, white bread, beef, and yogurt. Everything else was beyond hope by the time I could eat it.
But never fear, shortly after finishing up all that, lunch came and it’s Wednesday which means TONGUE DAY!!!! I don’t mind the tongue, but it does seem to horrify many people. I was much more pleased with my tongue selection today, it was much more tender and enjoyable than my first one last week. So lunch consisted of tongue, potatoes, slivered beets, bread, and fish soup. A pretty hardy lunch and I downed it all, minus the brown bread. I was a bit concerned about what dinner may be, since last week after the lunch of tongue, dinner was more breakfast related, my least favorite meal here, but I was surprised, we had tongue yet again for the second time today, must have had some leftovers. So dinner consisted of tongue, oatmeal, baked raisen cream bar, bread, and cookies.
Not for the faint of heart, but I actually enjoy the tongue so it doesn’t bother me a bit.
So that was my excitement today. Tomorrow is a more laid back day, just getting the smaller neck line installed for upcoming chemo and being able to relax. I’ll write up my blog post discussing my new room and the process of inserting the next catheter. Until then, I’m headed to bed and plan to enjoy my one night of sleep without having random lines flopping all over the place and a night of uninterrupted sleep, not being woken up to be stabbed by needles.
And just for fun, everyone has to pose with the tongue in their mouth 🙂