Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday: Donation Day

On Thursday, I got up and went for my last shot. I was really tired. I had planned to run after but when I got home, I had absolutely no energy. I laid on the couch til Wes got up. That electrical current feeling started a lot earlier than the three previous days. I felt it nearly all day. We headed to Jackson around 2pm. Checked in the hotel and then went to eat dinner. I was tired and achy all over from the shots. The shots pulled the bone marrow cells from my bones into my blood stream. This caused me to have bad headaches and bone pain. It was tolerable, but after four days with it increasing each day, it was unpleasant. I just kept telling myself that there was a reason for it. The thought that I am saving someone Else's life made the pain bearable.
On Friday morning, we got up, ate breakfast at the hotel and headed for the hospital. I had to have blood drawn first (The first of 10 needle sticks! 19 needle sticks in 5 days!!) Then we headed to the Aspheresis Unit of the hospital. I got situated and they started hooking me up... My left arm was going to be the return, where the blood was going to return back to me after it's filtered. The nurse stuck me and my vein started fluttering. That was a weird feeling. When it stabilized, they went to stick me in my right arm. They first vein collapsed. The second one started rolling. Turns out that the veins in my arms were not big or strong enough to handle the pressure of pulling the blood from them. (When you give blood, the blood flows out naturally. The machine was going to pull the blood out and push it back in). So I had to have a Central Line. The central line is a catheter that goes in a major vein. There's a balloon on the end that supports the wall of the vein. The Catheter was about a foot long. On the end that sticks out are two IV lines, one for extraction, and one for return. (This link is a similar photo of a central line in someones chest. Mine was in my hip). They took me (well, I walked) to "interventional Radiology." I was rushed back to a surgery room (My marrow had a plane to catch) and they numbed my hip and covered me all up like they were about to cut me open. It was strange and fascinating at the same time. The nurse (Stacy) was super nice and explained what they were all doing. They offered anesthesia, but I didn't need it. I was watching the guy dig into my hip with all these wires and things. I never felt any pain, just a little pressure. When he was all done, my hip was orange (sterile zone) and I had this thing hanging out of me. (I felt like an alien).
Now we are ready for the big show. I went back up to the Aspheresis Unit and within minutes I was hooked up and ready. I was actually relieved that I needed a Central line because I had free use of my arms. I would have not been able to move my arms for 3-5 hours with the needles in my arms. And when we started, they told Wes that he couldn't sit with me because there were other patients in the room (there were 4 other beds in the room). Having use of my arms made it much better without him there. I set up my DVD player and watched a movie and used my phone. Here's a picture of my "stuff" starting to fill the bag...

Wes came in and out a few times. He stayed in the waiting area most of the time though. It was a really nice room with big sofas and a TV. He said he fell asleep some. Mom came in right after I got hooked up. She was working a few floors down from where I was.
So I watched my movie and then played with my phone for a little while. Around 3pm, the nurses said I was done. The bag wasn't very full, but they said that was all they needed. I learned that the recipient will adopt my blood type after the transplant. Here's a picture of it ready to go in the cooler. Kind a looks like V8 juice, doesn't it.

the cooler.
I couldn't see it after that point because they were putting the labels on everything. The labels had the recipient's name on it. So this whole time, all these nurses and the Donor Center people knew who it was going to. His name and info was sitting on the counter a few feet away. There was someone waiting at the hospital to take it away. They had a 3:30 flight originally, but because I needed the Central line, they moved the flight to a little later. They had this chain of custody stuff they had to follow. Mattie (the donor center recruiter) took the cooler to the person waiting to get on the plane. Then that person flew to wherever and handed it off to someone else. There was a 48 hour window in between me donating and the recipient getting the transplant.

After they were finished extracting the marrow, they unhooked me from the machine and got a doctor to remove the central line. Wes was in there at this point. There were no other patients there. He got to see the line being pulled out. (I don't think he liked it). Once they bandaged up where the line was, I was good to go.
So that's it.
Throughout this whole process, people have said to me "That's great that you're doing that....I couldn't do it," or "I wouldn't do it," or "I hate hospitals/needles/etc." Well, yeah, I don't like getting stuck either and I'm not fond of hospitals, but I never thought about not doing it. I never considered backing out or saying no. I guess if you're never given the opportunity, you can't say how you would respond. So to all those people who said you wouldn't, I think your opinion would change if it were given a chance. I mean, if you were physically able to help someone else and there was no threat to your own life, Why would you say no? If fear is the only reason, you are being selfish. Fear can easily be overcome.
Today is Saturday. The recipient likely received the transplant today and I pray he is on the road to recovery. I hope to be able to meet him someday. It's weird for me to hear all the praise people have said to me about this. One of the doctors said I was a hero. I don't feel like I have done anything monumental, even though I know I have. Maybe when I get to meet the recipient I'll feel differently. I just feel honored to be given the opportunity. Like I said before, I never gave it a second thought. I know I had the choice to say no, but saying no meant possibly costing someone Else's life. That would have been worse for me to have to think about for the rest of my life.
Would I do it again?

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