So this is a blog entry I started two Fridays ago about the next step of my PBSC Donation process. To refresh, PBSC means peripheral blood stem cells, which are what I am donating to help a guy be able to kick his leukemia.
Here’s the blog entry I started:
Donation is on my mind again because I went into Boston today to do a re-test of some blood that would fit inside the “under 30 days” time frame.
As soon as I got off the train I said “You know, everytime I come to Boston, it’s never a drag because I will see at least one cool thing.” And no sooner did I look and see a woman walking a small greyhound wearing a pink doggie sweater- through Back Bay Station. I mean, come on people- a small greyhound in a pink sweater in the train station. That’s a day-maker right there.
“The DF” was easier to get to this trip since last time I realized the key was to get off the E Green line at Brigham Circle not Longwood Medical. I am now forever oriented towards Brigham Circle lol. This doesnt mean I didnt get lost because I sure did. Im just bad like that. But it was easier. And I self-corrected really faster. And I was in the right vicinity– got to the building I went to last time and just asked the nice lady at the volunteer desk where to go next.
Here’s a point: how gutsy is it to be in your 60s and volunteer at the info desk of a cancer hospital with tons of foot traffic and people with questions? That’s gutsy. And that place has women and men like that all over.
Anyhow, thanks to this lady, I found the cool little door with the security buzzer and got into what I will now refer to as “the secret entrance to the Jimmy Fund Building.” I could tell you about where it is, but then I’d have to… actually be able to recall where it is.
Anyhow, inside, the elevator was right there and when it opened, not only was I on the right floor, but I was in the room I needed to be in lol. It was really weird, like I was magically transported. How did that happen? Certainly not because I knew where I was going…
The desk people took my “Im a donor” red card
and gave me the paper bracelet and said Stacey, who as you may recall is my case manager, would be right there. She soon was and it was just like old times…of last week. lol
Interestingly she was with another donor doing the rundown that I did last week. He was tatooed on his arms like crazy…The blood lady joked he better not say he was afraid of needles. As he went in for his blood letting (lol), Stacey and I went over some logistics and I chatted with Tattoo Donor’s girlfriend. She, the GF, said he was donating to a relative and they lived a 2 1/2 hour ride away and she didnt want him coming alone. Very nice. That’s a long drive, I could understand that.
Then she said something that got me to pondering. She asked if I were donating for a relative and after I said no, and we said a few things about how random it was that I got matched to some stranger, she said she’d herself definitely donate to a relative but if it was a stranger she didnt think she’d do the 2 1/2 hour drive. I just kind of nodded. But I was thinking “You wouldn’t?”
And then I thought: would I? If I had a job and kids like she did and had to drive five hours round trip – probably 4-5 times, and drag someone with me, would I do it? I mean, in a way Im kind of the best case scenario donor- flexible schedule, nearby the center….
And now it’s the day after Easter and I pick up the story….
…..and I don’t really have an answer to my hypothetical question. I can’t predict what I’d do if I was a spouse, parent, had a big time job I couldn’t get off from. I can only say that right now I feel like my life is pretty well aligned to let me do this so, and I’m grateful for that blessing. And I see it as, hey, maybe my life isn’t the way it is just for my benefit, but because it benefits this guy. Im not the center of the universe afterall. And it’s kind of a cool feeling to be knowing you’re playing this weird random supporting role in someone else’s life. So it is what it is. Now back to the recap–
So, Im at the Kraft Blood Donor area- Oh, I can’t believe I havent given Kraft the shout out yet because you know Krafty needs more publicity- but that’s the name of this suite, the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center
And the nurse – who I feel compelled to say was male, which is sexist of me lol- sets me up to do the draw. As per usual, my veins are uncooperative. His attempt to get them to spurt forth is in vain. Get it? lol. I gotta stop laughing at my own jokes.
So he calls in this woman who everyone else I spoke to afterwards held in high esteem for her vein-finding abilities. Let me tell you, this woman was the best. I’ve never before had someone do a blood test where there hasnt been a sign of a bruise the next day. This woman was like the guru of phlembology. Or whatever it’s called.
She’s a nurse, this expert of the arterial invasion (I made that term up for the alliteration lol). And she explained has gained a lot of her skill from working with chemo patients with collapsed veins. I said I stood in awe of all of the staff who work in the DF, so much they have to deal with and see everyday. Her response was she loves to help people, to take care of people, loves it; it was vocation it seemed. I still stood in awe, maybe more so. Actually, I sat in awe because I felt a little drained by this draw and she had me suck down some water and sit tight a few moments before I moved on. As she did this, she showed her colleague a technique for using your knees to safeguard against patients falling on the floor from the chair. I guess she thought I was a flight risk lol. I was actually fine but I’m glad to know they have a technique for this just in case. lol.
…And I was even more glad I didnt have collapsing veins because of chemo.
After that draw, a quick talk over logistics with Stacey and a walk through the area where I will actually be donating, which is right in this same suite. There was a guy in there donating pbsc, and just lying there, smiling away. I found this encouraging. Stacey also pointed out Tv’s above the beds and that I’d get some meals. And I noted the nurses desk right there, the fact there was wifi and the general low key nature of it all. And that was that.
So let’s recap the stages so far to remember how simple this is:
1. Get on the registry. This can be done with their free at-home kit.
2. If you’re a potential match, and it may be years and years before you are one, go in for a quick blood test (Im pretty sure this can also be done locally at your own doctor) known as “confirmatory testing.”
3. If you’re the right match, go in for a bunch of tests, a brief physical and a consultation where you get all the facts. Takes abou 4 hrs.
4. Then, in my case, go in again to get another test so it is current enough for the standards they go by- this probably isnt par for everyone’s course.
And here’s what’s still to come for me: SPOILER ALERT (lol)
1. This week I have to get a local blood draw for one last test they needed around the 26th (pregnancy test – it still cracks me up lol)
2. On May 7th, go into The DF and get a shot of what I think I will call “bone marrow juice” which cranks up my body’s production of those lovable blood stem cells.
3. For the next four days get more of these shots from a visting nurse – no need to go anywhere.
4. On the 10th, sleep overnight in Boston after getting a central line in my neck for the donation the next day.
5. Go over to DF on the 11th and “get ‘er done.”
I dont know how all this comes across to people who are reading this – like a lot of stuff, like not a lot of stuff, like kind of a lot of stuff, like a lot of needles?
To be honest, to me, the idea of being in a hotel in Boston – remember it’s all paid for by them – it’s feeling to me like kind of like a mini-vacation, even if I have a tube in my neck at the time lol. I’m also starting to plan what videos and books to bring on donation day. Im sure I’ll be a little wigged out as it closes in, but mainly, I just have this overwhelming sense of being surrounded by people who know what they’re doing and that my own role is basically just to show up and lie around.
People, I was made for this gig. LOL.
Consider getting on the marrow registry: www.marrow.org
Thanks for reading.