Stem Cell Donation – Day 8
Today was the donation, the reason I came to Texas. At least I hope it was. Before I leave I have to donate at least 4,000,000 stem cells, and I won’t know until tomorrow whether they have been able to get that many.
First thing this morning, I gave myself what I hope are the last Neupogen injections. Then I went to the hospital and had more blood tests done to determine if the injections were doing their job. My total white blood cell and neutrophil counts were each about triple the normal levels. I was ready to be hooked up to the apheresis machine.
Apheresis is a process by which blood is removed and separated into its components. The component that is being collected – the white blood cells here – is removed and stored and the rest of the blood is returned to the body.
I lay in a hospital bed and my nurse, Rolando, inserted a large steel-tipped IV line into a vein in my left elbow to remove my blood and a smaller plastic-tipped line into one in my right wrist to return the blood to me. Because of the steel in my left arm I was unable to move that arm for the remainder of the procedure or it would puncture the vein. The arm began to fee uncomfortable after a couple of hours, but I made certain I did not move it.
Once the procedure began, it was pretty much like a regular blood donation, except it lasted for 3 1/2 hours. I am glad that they were returning a lot of the blood to me because apparently they processed about 12 liters (roughly 3 gallons) of blood, which is more than twice as much as I have in my whole body.
One strange phenomenon is that after the blood is processed it returns to the body much closer to room temperature than to body temperature, which caused me to feel cold. To help me, Rolando periodically brought heated blankets. Outside, it was 106 degrees today, but inside I was lying under a stack of blankets and feeling chilled.
Another peculiarity was that after half an hour or so my lips began tingling. Apparently that is caused by an expected calcium loss and was controlled by adding calcium to the fluid returning to my left arm.
Otherwise, my biggest complaint was boredom. I couldn’t move and had nothing to do but watch television for the entire time. As usual, nothing good was on except “Bewitched.” My only exercise was squeezing a foam ball every few seconds to keep the blood flowing. And, of course, there is the problem that you cannot go to the bathroom while hooked up to the machine.
When the planned volume of white blood cells had been collected, Rolando removed the lines in my arms, covered the sites with compression bandages and told me to return at 7:30 tomorrow morning to find out if enough stem cells had been collected or if I will need to go through the procedure again.
When I give blood to our local blood bank, they always provide juice and a cookie when I am finished. I didn’t get that here, so I went back to the apartment and drank some orange juice.