Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21: Names and People

First, note that I updated the bone marrow donation post I did. I'll explain why in a moment.

Second, good grief! I can't believe I'm not remembering to get pictures of these people! At least the nurses!

Yesterday and today I have a very talkative--and like everyone else here, very friendly and pleasant--nurse named Martie. Martie, I'm told, is very smart, and she's been around a while as an oncology nurse, though she's much younger than me, young enough to have a 7-year-old.

(She threw up every day during the entire pregnancy! No first trimester "morning" sickness for her. All day nausea for 9 months, and she even threw up an hour before delivery. Yikes! She said she kept telling herself, "It's worth it. Keep your eyes on the prize." Is she awesome or what?)

She certainly appears to be both smart and experienced.

She explained the whole marrow donation process. Apparently, she's been the nurse for about 1000 transplant patients.

Mmm! Hospital food! That's an "omelette."
Don't get me wrong, though, I've never been treated so well in my life, despite that the food usually qualifies as hospital food.
Blogger's spell checker, by the way, doesn't recognize "omelette" either!

Anyway, what she told me is that what I went through for a bone marrow biopsy was just one hole. For a transplant, they will make 50 or more on each side (wow). She explained that the person would be asleep, so it's not traumatic, and that they take about a liter of liquid marrow.

Afterwards, the donor will feel like he or she has been kicked by a mule, but the soreness would go away in about a week.

It's a lot easier on the donor if they're just given a growth hormone for up to 5 days, which causes proliferating stem cells from the marrow to enter the blood stream. Then they just take blood and harvest the stem cells right there.

Either way, they just inject the marrow or the stem cells into the recipient, and they go right to work replacing all the marrow.

Pretty amazing.

I'll spare you the explanation of how they decide between marrow and stem cell transplant. I'd probably get it wrong, anyway.

The Warrior Nurse

I already wrote about Anna, whom I referred to as the "warrior nurse." Remembering that George at our sister church in Nakuru, Kenya likes to name the folks we send over to visit and serve them, I decided to look up the Swahili word for warrior.

I found a great one, and it's even a Kenyan Swahili name.

It's Kamau, pronounced Kah-MAH-oo, and it means "quiet warrior."

It was perfect.

So I told her about it, and she asked, "Is that my new name?" I told her, "Yes, and that's what I'm calling you from now on."

She said she liked it, but everyone is nice on this floor, so I don't have any way of knowing if she meant that.


Every morning after I exercise, I go in the family room and wait to meet a patient. God has sent someone in every morning. Today, I went in before the bike ride because the night nurse—whose name ends in an -ee sound, causing me to forget her name because all my nurses lately have names ending in -ee—wanted to change the bandage on my PICC line so that Martie wouldn't have to.

Anyway, it was Al who came in this morning. He seems somewhat young for a leukemia patient, too, though he's older than me. He's got something called Myelodysplasia. (There you go; pronounce that one!) He explained that means that his red blood cells come out wrong.

He was diagnosed in January, and ever since he's been going to the hospital for one week of minor chemo, followed by 3 weeks of recovery. He said he got Benadryl every day during the treatments, so he was always tired. Over the next week, he would recover. Then he would get two pretty energetic weeks, then go back in.

Now he's been in 2 weeks, so he's a week ahead of me.

The nice part about that is that a week ahead is where my "low" is supposed to be, where I'll have the least energy. Al didn't not seem sapped. He seemed great.

I didn't learn as much about him as I did about others because he's a good listener and apparently pretty good at conversation. So I did more talking than I've done other mornings.

He gets his bone marrow biopsy tomorrow to see how things are going. He is headed for a transplant for certain, too, like me. He has two brothers and a sister, like me, but his siblings weren't matches, not even partial enough to be used. But they found a donor in the National Marrow Donor Program, so he's set as long as the chemo puts him in remission.

Please pray that goes well.

When he was leaving, he said something that sounded almost non-positive. It wasn't negative, but anything non-positive on this floor stands out. So I told him, "You're in good hands here."

I was referring to the doctors, but he pointed to heaven and said, "I'm in the best hands of all."

Then he smiled a smile that made it clear there was nothing non-positive about him.

He was probably tired from the 14-day low—and 6 months of being on and off chemo and Benadryl—and was simply so positive that I forgot how fatigued he had to be.

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