Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Truth Of The Matter

We were told that the actual stem-cell transfusion was going to be "anti-climactic", "no big deal", and "just like a normal blood transfusion". It sounded like there was going to be a small syringe, a single injection, and that would be it. What a different experience we had!

The first sign that this wasn't going to be easy came from the administering RN, who asked Krista if she had any hard candies. Hard candies? Why? People getting a stem-cell transfusion often have a tickling sensation in their throats. Krista asked if she could use M&Ms, but the RN said that she didn't want her to choke. She wanted me (Mike) to run downstairs to get some candy, but I didn't want to miss anything. Fortunately, someone mentioned that they had some lollipops at the transplant desk. Look... it's heart-shaped -- Krista's favorite! That was a nice touch.

Once we got that settled, the RN proceeded to roll off some more possible immediate effects: fever, abdominal pains, coughing, and flu-like symptoms. This wasn't sounding very good.

The blood arrived in a red picnic cooler. I guess they had to put it in something, but I was expecting something a little more medical looking. The transplant coordinator had previously gone into great detail about how it was stored at -197 degrees in a 3-foot cube refrigerator and shipped at a cost of $40,000. Seems like it should have been carried in like the Ark of the Covenant. Nah. Just a picnic cooler.

We asked the delivery staff about the freezer, and they informed us that they had to defrost the cord-blood in order to administer it. Makes sense, huh? Plus, they diluted it a bit to make it go down easier. That's the bag there in the picture on the left.

They put the bag way up high and connected it to her IV ports, just letting gravity feed it in. It's hiding up top in the picture on the right.

And within about twenty seconds of it entering Krista's body, she started feeling the tickling in her throat and the coughing. The RN was incredulous -- there was such a small amount that had entered when she started reacting. But it was all "normal" reactions, so they continued. And so did Krista's reaction. Her nose started to fill up with with liquid and her coughing intensified, and her breathing became difficult. They had an oxygen sensor on her finger, so they could tell that she wasn't suffocating, but it was a very scary experience for Krista -- who was beginning to feel like she had signed up for a water-boarding experiment. Fortunately, Torquemada had the day off, so the ten in the room (doctors, nurses, interns, and who knows what else) gave her a fast acting diuretic that cleared it up within minutes (and gave her good practice using a bed-pan). They also hooked her up to the oxygen, though it wasn't much help until the diuretic started clearing up her nose so she could breathe. You can see the tubes in her nose there in the picture on the left.

Then we sat around and waited to see if anything else bad would happen. It took a total of two hours before the bag was empty. When everything seemed to be ok, the throng slowly dismissed and she was able to catch a small nap.

The peace didn't last too long, as nausea, aches, and a horrible headache became the soup du jour. The anti-nausea meds seem to cause some pain, while the pain releivers seem to cause nausea, and the combination comes with a headache and intense dreams that kept her jumping out of her sleep through the night. We're trying to back off of taking so much stuff, and Krista seems to be doing a bit better while we watch American Idol.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
1 Pt 1:3-6

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