So Day #30 for me here in Russia wasn’t super exciting as far as things go in the hospital world. Treatment is finished, so all that happened was around 7:30am the nurse came in and stuck me in the arm and drew out some blood to do the daily blood test to check my numbers. This is the nurse that loves to use my right arm for the stimulation injections, everyone else liked the left arm for that. She originally was going to try my right arm and had that one banded up and was feeling my vein, but I tried to tell her that my other arm was much better, so she then banded my other arm up and gave me a thumbs up sign, then jabbed the needle in and it was done in no time. I know my main veins are shot in my right arm, thanks mainly to past nurses in the US that cannot hit a vein if their life depended on it and then dig around in the arm to try and get one. I gotta give these Russian nurses credit, they have hit the vein on the first try every time, it’s been relatively painless, and zero bruising. I’m not sure how they developed this amazing skill but they really need to share their knowledge with the outside world, especially to the nurses in my area of the US. I dread going in for blood draws in the future now….I’ve been pampered. The one exception to this here was when I was going in for my MRI and they were going to get my arm ready to go for the contrast, because they kept using my left arm for the daily IV steroid infusions, they wanted to use the right arm and the vein collapsed on her, so she did end up using the left arm. But they were trying to do that to help me out so that for my last doses of IV steroids they wouldn’t have to tap other veins in my arms, but they never had to, always got them in the same area, even more impressive. But still not much pain and no bruise afterwards, so I’ll take it.
I had my morning visit with Dr. Fedorenko around 10:30am. The usual routine. Check blood pressure, mouth, heart/lungs, all that good stuff. All good there. Then we got down to the business of the numbers. My platelets have gone crazy, I mean they really have, it’s ridiculous really, they are now at 338, they jumped by 80. I’m towards the high-end of normal now and my Hemoglobin is starting to take off now as well, I should be in the normal range today and he feels at a completely average level within the next few days the way my blood appears to be going. My Leukocyte count is raising steadily at its own pace, taking it’s time, 7.46. Not super impressive like some of my fellow patients are seeing, but everyone rebounds at their own rate. Some jump super fast then level out, others get there a bit slower. Can’t rush it, the body does what it wants to. But I’m in the normal range for where I should be and that is all that matters. Dr. F however does think that it will really jump one of these days though now that my other blood levels are all in the normal range, usually it’s one or the other, I’m the rebel, I choose to be different.
It was an emotional day here. The Norwegian guy in my group I guess left yesterday, none of us seen him leave and were all pretty bummed that we never got to say goodbye. I knew he flew out today, but guess he stayed the last night at the motel with his family, I just woke up early and went to fill my water and his name was off the door and they were doing a deep clean on the room. But I can’t blame the guy for wanting out, being with family is way better than being in a hospital, but I am bummed I didn’t get to give him a hug and say goodbye, such is life. Sometimes it’s best to just not do goodbyes, makes it easier in some ways. The British gal left yesterday as well. We said our goodbyes in the morning and she was off to the airport in the afternoon and home with her family later that night. My good buddy here, Aussie Cathy, left yesterday as well, not for home but just to the motel with her hubby, she leaves for home early tomorrow. We’ve had such a great bond here and we did interact in the morning, but we didn’t do a big formal goodbye, I think in a way we felt it was best to just keep it simple and not turn into blubbering bawling idiots, that would be awkward and sometimes it’s best to keep things real and not say goodbye. Besides we have future plans to visit each other, so no need for goodbyes, soon it will be reconnecting with hugs. She has a long flight home and has her little girl waiting for her there and I’m sure that reunion will be amazing. Now all that is left of my group here is me and the Norwegian gal and her wonderful hubby. We both leave tomorrow. We actually will be driven to the airport together by the hospital driver. We are both flying out of SVO and our flights leave at almost the same time. Except while I’m spending 13 hours in Paris, they will be at home in Norway sleeping in their own bed, I am a bit jealous of that, not gonna lie. So it was a day of emotions, a whole lot to take in. When you spend a month of your life with people and then it all goes away, it’s a lot to take in.
But I did head back down to the castle marketplace by the Vega today to pick up a few more things. I wore a mask the whole time. I did take the tram there, which in the time frame that I was locked in the hospital they did switch up some route numbers. Still #11 to get to the hospital/Vega, but now that route is running the #11, #34K, and #36. I went before noon so I knew the tram wouldn’t be super packed and it wasn’t and in wearing a mask nobody would come near me, so I was fine. I did use a ton of hand sanitizer the entire time I was out and about. Ironically at the marketplace I didn’t get a whole lot of weird looks for wearing a mask, but then again there are groups of Asian tourists that come through once in a while and they are just paranoid germ freaks and often wear masks so I’m guessing they are used to it, and really they just want your money so really don’t care how you look. Wasn’t a whole lot of vendors out there today, but it was rainy off and on all day and it is a week day, but I got what I set out to get. Interestingly enough I met the first people from the USA of my entire trip at the market, well there is a US guy here for treatment, but in general I have not seen an actual person from the US in Russia. A group of 4, 2 dads and their college age sons from Texas doing a tour across Eastern Europe during summer break, they had just come from Ukraine and visiting Chernobyl, and were headed north tomorrow. So I was chatting with them for a bit about why I was here. It’s just so odd to encounter after so long here. But when roaming the market I did come across several other pairs of people obviously from the US given the accents all with big packs on. But college is out for summer in the US and now a lot of college kids are backpacking around Europe and apparently Russia. But in overhearing some talk, it appears Russia is like the new cool place to visit, kinda the forbidden fruit, so I guess I’m doing the new in-thing by being here, I feel so trendy. But after the marketplace I decided to walk back to the hospital. It’s quite the distance and took about an hour. But I really wanted the fresh air and to be able to get some exercise since I knew I’d be confined in planes and airports for a really long time. I don’t really have any major mobility issues, so this wasn’t an issue for me. But I did really overstimulate the nerves in my feet that are doing their crazy tingling thing, so it wasn’t a super pleasant walk for my feet, but it’s all good. Was good to get out.
The rest of my day I really just spent chilling in my room, coloring and relaxing with facebook turned off. Nobody was out in the lounge later in the evening and in a way I just wanted to be alone anyways. I did exhaust myself with the walk so for once I was tired and ended up taking a long shower and then headed to bed by 9:15pm.
But I guess we can end up this boring post about food, since I always discuss the food here. I ate 3 out of the 4 meals here today, I wasn’t here for lunch so missed that. And I didn’t take a picture of Breakfast #2, but it was a standard meal. Breakfast #1 was the fun one for the week because it involved getting a piece of cheese.. This is a big thing because cheese shows up once a week. It came with the standard oatmeal which today was so incredibly thick that the spoon stood straight up in it, it went in the toilet, didn’t even bother with it. And then the standard bread, tea, and more sugar packets…… Breakfast #2 which isn’t pictured was one of the better ones. A hard-boiled egg, piece of beef, and then 2 giant cooked apples, apparently their current apple shipment is all big apples, normally they were tiny little things. I missed lunch, no big loss. Then dinner came around and was a whitefish steak of some sort, godawful horrible thing it was, bread, mashed potatoes, tea, and cookies. No eating that fish for me. Aussie Cathy however had tons of food leftover in her room that she had brought with her and bought here so she was handing it out to anyone who wanted it, so I had grabbed a few cans of beans from her and some peaches. So to supplement the food that was provided I ate some beans and my last pack of mac and cheese for meals throughout the day.
So to end my post like always, side-effects, improvements. Not much in the way of side-effects, I was having some pressure in my lower lungs in the morning when I would breath and Dr. F said that is a side effect of being off the steroids, happens to about 10-15% of people and will go away after a couple days and will come and go. And he was right, a few hours after waking up it did go away and was fine all day long. He did say if it got really painful, he could get me pain meds. No pain really, just a bit weird feeling. I’ve also come down of my steroid induced eating rage and am now eating like a normal person and sleep appears to have sorta came back to normal as well. Still no bone pain for me, which can be caused by coming off steroids as well as the immune system taking off. So I’m lucky in that regards. My vision is still pretty good as for focusing and all that, I did notice when being outside more today without sunglasses on, I was having some issues with floaters, but again I’m off steroids so hard to say what will happen with the vision, but I can still see clearly and focus my eyes together, so I’m cool with that. No other real improvements other than I seem to be getting a bit of feeling in my feet, still trying to deal with all that, it’s odd. But I also know that it is a roller-coaster, so there will be improvements and there will be setbacks, there will be days where the MS symptoms I’ve had before will come back around and knock me down, there will be days I feel amazing. It’s part of the recovery process for HSCT.
Tomorrow is my final meeting with Dr. Fedorenko. This is when he goes over everything with me before I leave. I will do a blog post about that, but I am not sure when it will happen. I do have many hours of layovers, so if the airports have free wi-fi I may write up some blog posts when killing time, otherwise I will eventually write some blog posts after I get home. Since my treatment is complete I will not be doing daily blog posts anymore, I will probably cut back to about once a week or so unless something pressing pops up that I want to discuss. I do still have some other posts I do plan to write up about my time here, some list posts, and other things like that, but not sure when I will do that. From start to finish I will have been away from home for 34 days, so for my first few weeks home I plan to spend it recovering and bonding with my family.
So onwards and upwards, I leave for home tomorrow evening!!!!