The Asspheresis Blood Sucking Machine
All the cell counts came up dramatically over the weekend, so we left early this morning to begin the harvesting. After Kevin was made comfortable on a cushy recliner with a pull down computer with internet access and/or movies at his disposal, he was hooked up to the apheresis machine.
The blood cells are collected in a blood cell separator which separates the stem cells from other blood cells using centrifugation. These stem cells are then frozen and stored for the future transplant. A liquid anticoagulant called citrate is added to the blood to keep it from clotting in the blood cell separator. Citrate works by binding calcium. Most of the side effects seen during the collection, including a sour taste, nausea, and tingling around the lips and extremities, are related to this binding of calcium. To prevent these side effects, they were running a calcium drip throughout the harvesting process and also had Kevin eat TUMS--which contain calcium. Kevin was given a warm fuzzy blanket to keep him warm, since the blood cools while it is in the blood cell separator causing chilling when it is returned to the body.
There was only one slight problem when they were starting the harvesting. Kevin has been faithfully doing his two pokes of GCSF to his tummy every evening to bring the WBC's up. But no one mentioned he needed to do the injections this morning. Evidently it is important to get the GCSF the morning of the harvesting because it causes a great proliferation of stem cells about an hour after the injection. So after phone consults with Kathy Martin at Abbott, it was decided I would need to run from St. Paul to the Piper Pharmacy in Abbott to pick up the medication. The look from Kevin as I was leaving clearly emphasized his lack of confidence in my navigational abilities--I think he expected me to end up in Chicago. But I got in my faithful steed and made the trip in record time--thank God for minimal traffic and good directions!
Kevin was hooked up to the apheresis machine for just under 6 hours. He tolerated the whole procedure quite well, sleeping during most of it. His only discomfort was from the on-going bone pain that he has been experiencing since the cells started coming up over the last few days--mostly concentrated in his left elbow. He was taking Vicodin and Dilaudid which has been keeping it manageable.
We left the blood bank at 4 pm--just in time to partake in rush hour traffic. Kevin started to get really nauseous--wouldn't you know this is the one time I didn't have the trusty heave bucket in the car. But if there is one thing we have learned throughout this experience, it is that in a pinch, you improvise. So the partially filled box of Kleenex had to do as a receptacle until I could pull over at an exit, which I did shortly thereafter. With cool air blowing from the AC directly on him, Kevin made the rest of the trip home okay, but the nausea was hitting him again heavily by the time we hit St. Cloud. I'm not sure if it was after effects from the harvesting or the narcotics, probably a little of both.
He is feeling better now and was even able to keep down some pizza--now I know he is going to live! I did take a bunch of pics today as Kevin was undergoing the harvesting. But since Dick was at work when we got home and I am technologically illiterate, they will have to wait until tomorrow to be transferred from the camera to the computer. Life used to be much simpler--I did know how to open the photo envelope when the pictures came back from the developer!!