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Bone Marrow Transplant By the Numbers

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Work has come to a screaching halt because of my Bone Marrow Transplant. I recently spent 40 days in-patient, most of which was spent in isolation, some of which was spent in a plastic tent. It was all the mental torment of solitary confinement plus the physical pain of battling cancer.

There are essentially 3 potentially fatal consequences of Leukemia. Number 1, the cancer itself. Number 2, life-threatening infections. Number 3, Graft Vs. Host Disease, where the patient and the donor’s cells don’t get along. I’m currently contending with stages 2 and 3.

How Leukemia Treatment Works

Blood Cancer results from the production of abnormal white blood cells. Unchecked, they will crowd out the good white blood cells and the host will die as a result. 99.X% of the cancerous cells can be wiped out by chemo. Unfortunately, that .X% will invariably replicate exponentially and the cancer will reemerge. After each round of chemo the cancer comes back stronger.

The only potential cure is to replace the patient’s bone marrow (which is producing the cancerous cells) with a healthy donor’s bone marrow.  According to Wikipedia, “Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation remains a dangerous procedure with many possible complications; it is reserved for patients with life-threatening diseases.” The patient’s bone marrow is destroyed with chemotherapy. In my case, my blood was drawn every 15 minutes, then every 30 minutes, then every hour, and air-lifted from Buffalo to Philadelphia where it was tested to see how quickly I metabolized the chemo. Then they turned the chemo up to 11. Whereas previous rounds of chemo didn’t bother me, this one certainly did. With chemo complete and my bone marrow destroyed, it was time for my BMT.

The Bone Marrow Transplant itself is a fairly benign procedure (for the patient, not so much for the donor). It consists of an IV drip of stem cells. The stem cells don’t become bone marrow right away however, and until they do the patient’s immune system ranges from wholly non-existent to compromised for approximately 100 days. About 25 of those days will be spent in-patient. During the remaining 75 days the patient needs to be under the constant, 24/7 care of someone willing and able to help with BMT-related procedures. For the 100 days, infections that wouldn’t bother a child can prove fatal for BMT patients.

In my case, I fell prey to a number of infections and overstayed my welcome at Roswell by a good 2 weeks. I’ll save you the gory details, but here’s my Bone Marrow Transplant By the Numbers…

Bone Marrow Transplant By the Numbers

  • No. of days in-patient: 40
  • No. of days in isolation: 30
  • Days of bubble boy treatment: 7
  • Hrs./day in bubble: 12
  • Hrs. of consecutive IV hook-up: 288 (yep, 12 days)
  • Weight loss: 31 lbs.
  • Weight loss rate: 1 lbs./day
  • Hrs. of consecutive fever: 96 (nurse said it was the longest run he’d seen)
  • Fever high score: 106.5 (home care nurse said it was the highest he’d heard of)

There are nastier numbers, but I’ll spare you some of the gore…

Bye for now!Bye for now!

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2 thoughts on “Bone Marrow Transplant By the Numbers

  1. Kathy says:

    Take care of yourself and stay away from germs. Are you past the point of having to worry about the .X%? Is it a sure thing that you wont reject the new marrow at this point?

    1. admin says:

      Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your concern and kind words! Most likely I’m beyond worrying about the .X% at this point, but the GvHD may or may not be a life-long concern. I had a good match however, so hopefully the GvH will be w/in healthy parameters.

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