Yesterday’s stem cell harvesting couldn’t have gone better! Arrived there bright and early and had a blood test to see if it could go ahead at all – to see if there was going to be enough stem cell floating around in my blood to even consider the harvest. We were asked to come back in a couple of hours.
At 11.15 we went back to hear all was good: the CD34 count was 36, when it needed to be above 10 (whatevers??! – don’t know what units these are??!). So I was hooked up to this very clever machine. My height, weight and a few other parameters were punched in. After a bit of priming and chugging it started whirring away, and we were off! There were 2 tubes connected to my Apheresis line – one on and one out. As usual, the red lumen was playing up a bit (not giving up any blood but going back in fine), so they used that one for the return leg. I could clearly see the blood coming out and into the machine, then being split into its component parts and sent off 3 separate ways: red cells, white cells and platelets. I couldn’t move much at all without the machine complaining so had to stay really still throughout which was difficult, especially after a few hours.
Looking into this peep-hole in the machine, Emily reckons it looked like a disco going on in there – flashing strobes and all! Slowly but surely these bags above the machine filled up – one with plasma and the other with my stem cells. We are talking tiny amounts here, I think the target was 100ml of stem cells. The actual quality and quantity of the stem cells would only be verified in the lab that evening.
Side effects wise, I was told that I may feel a bit strange. Some people say they feel like their face (and sometimes their whole body) is vibrating. This isn’t from the blood being shaken around and put back, but rather from a lack of calcium that happens along with the harvest. I did start to feel a bit weird after an hour or so and at 3pm I was given some chewable calcium tablets, which made me feel better once the machine was switched off. Other than this there was no pain at all. I did feel extremely tired and slept for some of the time.
The whole process lasted 4 1/2 hours. It was meant to last 3 1/2 but the nurse asked if I was okay with staying on the machine an extra hour and getting more stem cells – she sold it to me by saying this might make the difference between having to come back the next day and repeating the whole process or not. Once it was done, the machine beeped, I was disconnected, my obs (blood pressure, blood oxygen & temperature) were checked and I was free to go!
As always, the staff at St James were incredible: knowledgable, kind, caring & efficient. They know their stuff. They explained everything to me in great detail and set my mind totally at ease. I am so grateful to be living in a part of the world where there is such a good health service. Big up the NHS!!!
A couple of hours later I had a call from the hospital to say that the sample was good. That they needed 3 (whatevers …billions?) …and they got 7. Result!!! So I don’t need to go back. Job done. Onto the next phase of the journey!