I left the house at 7 p.m. last night and headed south on 35. I got to San Antonio around 9 p.m. and Claudine (yes, I’ve named my GPS) told me how to get to my hotel. Adrian drove over shortly after I’d gotten my room key, put my things away and chatted on the phone with Elise. Adrian and I chatted for a bit, then went to the bar where he bought us a round of Jack & Cokes. Then we went back to the room and stayed up talking until 1 a.m. Adrian left, I hit the hay.
This morning I got up, showered, dressed and went to the hotel lobby for breakfast and to meet Olga, my marrow donor coordinator. She told me all about the donation process, and the new National Marrow Donor Program Research Sample Repository, which is a study where they will take stem cell samples from both me (donor) and the patient. Our samples will be available to researchers for future research designed to make stem cell transplantation more successful for future recipients.
I learned that I’m not donating, nor does the patient need, bone marrow. I am donating peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) because this will allow me to donate blood-forming cells, platelets and some white blood cells, which, if I remember what Olga told me correctly, is more than they could harvest in marrow alone. The process requires that I get shots of filgrastim for 5 days to increase the amount of stem cells into bloodstream from my marrow.
The process itself is relatively easy. I sit in a chair for 6 hours with needles in both arms. An apheresis machine collects blood forming cells, white cells and platelets and then returns my red red kroovy right back to me. Around that same time, the patient will be undergoing radiation and chemotherapy to kill all of his existing marrow. I don’t know the specifics, but there is a very short amount of time that my stem cells have to be transplanted. It’s so amazing, and hard to wrap my brain around the fact a team is going to be rushing my stem cells from my location at Methodist Hospital to the patient’s location (wherever that may be). Truly amazing!
So, that’s what is more than likely going to happen on July 9th. After breakfast this morning with Olga, we drove over the Methodist Hospital and went straight up to the oncology ward. There I was given a complete personal and family medical history workup, a physical, more blood work and a urinalysis. The nurse practitioner, the doctor and all of the nurses, as well as Olga kept telling me, “thank you so much for doing this”. This was an absolute no-brainer decision for me, and I told them as much.
I have to admit, being in the oncology ward this morning was extremely difficult. I’m a strong, grown man and I cried twice while I was there. I can’t really put into words the suffering and strength that I witnessed this morning as I sat there and watch patients come in and leave. All of the art work in the department was created by cancer patients.
This whole experience has been very emotional and close to me since day one. Today was the kicker, the occasion that said, “Yes, we’re doing this thing! We’re going to help this guy get well!” So it was a very powerful ordeal for me.
So, after oncology, we went to cardiology where they did an EKG. Everything checked out okay. After cardiology we went down to radiology where they did X-rays of my chest. My doctor’s yet to check my EKG, chest films, urinalysis, get the results of my blood work, etc. etc. Everything should check out, I’ll know something on Friday, we’ll schedule my neupogen injections and the donation of the PBSCs.
We wrapped up around 2 p.m. I gave my new buddy Olga a hug and thanked her for walking me through everything today. I swear I had to sign a million releases and consents today. It was worse than the paperwork signed when we closed on our house.
I’m unbelievably excited and so thankful that I’ve been blessed with this opportunity to help this guy out. It’s a feeling that just can’t be put into words.
If you haven’t already, please, please, please become a marrow donor. This opportunity has changed my life. It’s put everything into perspective for me and it could do the same for you. Above all, I really hope it changes this 43-year-old man’s life by curing him of Myelodysplastic Syndrome. That’s the only reason I’m doing this and I’m very honored to have this chance.