It’s Transplant Day!
The side effects from the “atomic bomb” of chemo Corey received Saturday have started to kick in, although not super severely. It’s hard to say whether that or the impending procedure had us feeling a bit subdued this morning, but there was definitely less pep in our step than there might normally be on a beautiful fall morning.
We arrived at the clinic at 8:30 this morning, did labs, then headed up to the 5th floor for the big event. They called us back right on time and got Corey all squared away with vitals, etc. Arlyce, our nurse for the day, arrived shortly thereafter to get the party started (remember, this is his new birthday). Arlyce has been a transplant nurse with the SCCA since 1984. She worked with the Dr. Hickman, the man who invented and for whom the “Hickman Catheter” is named, and even with some of the doctors on the team who developed the process that we’re using today (and were awarded a Nobel Prize for). I’m totally good with people who are new on the job. We’ve all had a “first day on the job” so I always try to be super patient and understanding with the newbies. However, having a well-seasoned nurse today felt pretty good, I must say.
Arlyce was great, explaining in detail what today was going to entail, and by 9:30 Corey was hooked up to IV fluids so his body would be nice and hydrated when the cells arrived. The cells arrived right on time, at 11:30 AM, and, after checking, double checking and even triple checking that the right stuff was going to the right patient, Aviva (with the bright blue hair) pulled the bag out of the canister of liquid nitrogen it had been transported in (from the lab where they were being frozen and stored. Am I the only one envisioning that scene from Rocky where he’s pounding those slabs of beef in that big meat locker??). Anyway, the cell bag came out of the canister frozen and, according to Arlyce, looked like “the skinniest little pork chop you’ve ever seen” so Aviva gave it a nice warm bath for the next few moments to “wake the stem cells up” and prepare them for infusion.
Once they were sufficiently warmed and wide awake, Arlyce hooked the bag onto the IV machine, unclipped the clamp on Corey’s Hickman and the transplant began. This process is completely gravity controlled, there are no pumps to help the cells go in faster or slower. You just open the gate and away they go. The exact time the transplant began was 11:45 AM on October 30, 2017. Arlyce looked at me and exclaimed, “It’s a boy!” 🤣
The infusion was complete at 11:56 AM. In the span of 11 minutes, 1,385 million stem cells were infused back into Corey’s body. Now they just need to find their proper places and set up shop. Arlyce compared it to salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Have you ever watched those nature shows and wondered, “How. In. The. World. do they know where to go??” I think that Every. Single. Time. – and I guess the answer can be filed under that “fearfully and wonderfully made” tab. The stem cells, all 1,385 million of them, just know where to go and what their job is.
I’m gonna have to just take a minute and let that sink in. (Remember, I’m a processor so writing this the “day of” doesn’t leave me much time to process it all.)
OK, I’m back. And now as Corey is resting (he’s loaded up on some pretty heavy anti-nausea meds and he has at least another 5 hours of IV fluids), I’m sitting here in an awed silence while a new lifecycle begins in every system throughout his body.
I think this will be a pretty significant celebration in our house. He really is re-born today. His immune system is equal to that of a newborn; he has ZERO immune system and no immune memory. His cells no longer remember how to fight a cold or the flu or even a sunburn. He even has to get all of his immunizations again. (Can we all just stop and say “Hallelujah!” to a “newborn” that doesn’t have to be potty trained!) Anyway, it really is a new birthday.
I doubt there will be cake – or creamed corn – but we will celebrate. The orange (in the photos above) is because the preservative they use to store the stem cells has quite a distinct smell once they start the drip. Dr. Egan told us it smelled like creamed corn, Zena thought it smelled more like garlic, and Arlyce said it reminded her of seaweed. Dr. Egan wins – it most definitely smelled like creamed corn. It can tend to make the patient nauseous so they advise that you bring an orange that you can peel open right at the moment they start the drip and that you sniff, sniff, sniff away all throughout the infusion. I’m happy to report that it worked and that Corey didn’t smell a thing. I, on the other hand, will likely never eat creamed corn again.
From the very first diagnosis I have prayed that the Lord would use this time to give all of us a fresh perspective, a fresh zeal and passion, and a fresh appreciation for life and health and the simple things. I have prayed for each one of those 1,385 million stem cells to take hold and dig deep, planting the seeds of faith, hope, love and rebirth in Corey and in our whole family. So cheers! to rebirth and science and a Creator who knew before the foundations of the Earth were laid that we would all be walking this road together. I am looking forward with great big anticipation to where it will lead…
…as long as I don’t have to eat creamed corn along the way.