Monday, January 26, 2009

Out With The Old

Stem-cell transplant. It sounds like such a nice thing. They're just taking out some cells and putting new ones in, right?

That's a simplistic explanation of the procedure, but there's a lot more to the story. Since Krista's pretty heavily sedated right now, I (Mike) will take the opportunity to fill in some of the details that are missing from that clinical picture.

Yesterday, Krista began to feel what she described as "nerve-pain". It began as shooting pains in her legs, then her arms, then her back and sides. She has been through many different kinds of pains before from child-birth, Lupus-flares, and chemotherapy, but she said that this was unlike anything she had ever experienced. The doctors have explained to me that this is probably just the effect of the new chemotherapy doing its job -- attacking the diseased marrow. But the chemo is unable to distinguish between disease and health, the excruciating pain comes ultimately from a vital part of Krista's body being put to death.

Blood is so integral to people and animals that without it no creature can live. The Scriptures repeatedly make reference to "the life of every creature is its blood" (Lev 17:11,14; Deut 12:23). According to the wikipedia, each red blood cell has a life-cycle of about 100-120 days in the body, so it has to be replenished frequently. The marrow is responsible for making the various blood cells, and it makes about 2 million infantile cells per second throughout the body. What an amazing system it is! But for the stem-cell transplant to work, this lifespring must be eliminated completely.

Getting rid of a person's blood factory is not all that easy. Even with a few days of high-dose chemotherapy, the doctors were concerned that some cells may have "slipped through". [It kind of reminds me of Michael Criton's point he emphasized throughout Jurassic Park: "Life will find a way."] So that's why they prescribed four days of full-body radiation before the chemo -- just to make sure that the whole thing gets knocked out. And it is getting knocked-out, but it's not going without a fight.

Right now that fight is expressing itself through God's megaphone: pain. God has designed the body to have an intense desire to live, and infused each of his creatures with incredible self-protection devices. Somehow, even though there are supposed to be no nerve endings in the marrow, Krista's body has found a way to say, "Hey! There's something wrong here!"

The best that the doctors can do is to treat the symptoms and try not to do any additional damage by doing so. In addition to the chemo and transplant preparation medicines, she's getting anti-nausea medicine, anti-pneumonia medicine, and a host of narcotics to ease the pain. She's got eight bags connected to four infusion pumps going into her by three IV's. (She has a double Groshong line from previous chemotherapy, and they had to put an extra standard IV port in last night because the pre-transplant meds aren't compatible with the other meds.) Their best guess is that since the pain is probably from the chemo, that it may subside tomorrow since it's her day of rest before the introduction of the new lifespring via the cord-blood from a baby born in Australia ten years ago. Amazing!

So, we wait for some kind of deliverance from the pain, crying out like Job,

"And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
(Job 30:16-17)

and remembering like David,

weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalm 30:5b)


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike- thanks for the update. Please give Krista my love and let her know that I am praying for her and that we're all cheering her on! Take care!
Kristi (RN from Cottage 6 Central)

Anonymous said...

Hello Krista- We are thinking and praying for you here in Santa Barbara :-) Beatrice and family.