Almost done with my donation; one collection day down, one to go. This morning I got my last Neupogen ® injection and then headed to the Donor Center for the apherisis procedure.
It was very interesting. The machine was prepped and ready with saline solution in the lines. Since one line draws blood from my arm and one returns it to my body in the other arm, in order to start the circulation it had to be filled with saline. I have small veins, so one of the phlebotomists came in to hook me up which took about 10 minutes. The machine started up and the nurse explained to me what it did. My blood came out and into a centrifuge where it separated into parts, plasma, white blood cells & stem cells (those are together, the injections stimulate white blood cells which pushes the stem cells into overdrive and into your bloodstream). The plasma and the white/stem cells are collected in separate bags, the remainder of your blood is mixed back together and returned to your body. Also, a coagulant (or blood thinner) is added to the blood to prevent clotting. That actually binds with calcium in your blood and the calcium depletion can cause side effects for some.
First thing I noticed was that I was cold. Your blood is running through this machine which is not heated and returned to your body, so most people get cold during the process. I had a few blankets on to help with that. Also, my lips and tip of my nose were tingly, which was from the calcium, so they put me on a calcium drip as well to help with that. Another weird feeling I got from the calcium was a vibrating sensation in my chest. It felt like my heart was vibrating along with the machine, it was very weird. I also got light headed. Again, all a small price to pay but I just wanted to paint you guys a picture. The whole process took just over 4 hours.
Mom was there, she was lucky enough to have the task of itching my nose with a towel because we all know as soon as you can’t use your arms you get that itch on your face. I did feel a little bit of lower back pain and tiny bit of nausea, but that was from the last injection and the fact that I had only eaten half a bagel probably didn’t help that. I avoided any liquids this morning to try to not have to go to the bathroom during that time period. I was not successful in my quest, they went through two bags of the blood thinners which are fluids. You’re not allowed to move your arms or get out of the bed, so I’ll let you use your imagination there. Nurse assistance was needed. I’d say that was the most traumatic thing of my morning. HA!
There was also a woman next to me who was having her own stem cells collected for a autologous stem cell transplant for a later date. I learned that cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy deplete their own white blood cells and bone marrow during treatment, so they can harvest their own stem cells for use later as a rescue measure to replenish their own healthy blood cells, often done for lyphoma patients. I also learned last night that Andy, (cousin’s cousin mentioned on my other page for how I came to be a donor) hadn’t actually received a transplant from a donor, he had received his own stem cells in this same fashion in an attempt to become healthy enough to receive his own bone marrow transplant from a heathly donor which is what prompted his family’s drive.
Afterward, I felt weak and exhausted, couldn’t quite get my legs back under me fully and felt wobbly for about an hour and a half. Went straight home after and laid down. Now this evening, the shots side effects feel like they’re close to gone. Aside from the fatigue I may feel tomorrow afternoon, the achiness and nausea should subside from the shots.
PS. Don’t mind me in the picture, not exactly a glamour shot, but hey, we can’t look good in EVERY picture after all.