As we celebrated Bonnie's "new birthday" (transplant day 1), we laughed that we have finally "stumbled into the promised land"; We have been working for about 9 months to get to Bonnie's Bone Marrow Transplant. Any mental images we may have had of us racing across a cleanly marked finish line and bursting a tape with cheering crowds and cameras flashing like at the end of the Boston Marathon were replaced with the realities of more delays and drug-induced fog.
No clear finish lines, or racing with the wind in our hair; No we rumbled, we bumbled and we stumbled out of the last round of chemotherapy headlong into Bonnie's first day with her new stem cells flowing in her veins. We pray that the new little cells are looking for -- and finding -- new spaces in her bone marrow in which to take up residence. Live long and prosper: multiple and divide little stem cells.
Given the last nine months, who could be surprised when Bonnie's scheduled 8:30 PM transplant came off 13 hours late; The transplant material had not yet been received by Dana Farber Cancer Institute by 9:30 PM Tuesday night. Yikes.
Bonnie has been saturated with drug after drug for a week to make this precise appointment. Most of the day she had been hooked up to the infusion machine getting drug cocktails and every anti-this and anti-that known... but when it came time to pour in the stem cells - they were nowhere to be found.
Did the courier miss his plane? Did the courier get into an accident on his way to Dana Farber this evening?
At 10:30 PM, Dana Farber Cancer Institute called Brigham and Womens Hosptial: the courier had arrived. But DFCI discovered that the stem cells had not been processed. That meant Dana Farber had received more or less whole blood. The vital stem cell material had not been been "red cell depleted"; It would take another 7 hours to process the "material" to make it ready to infuse into Bonnie's circulatory system.
We shrugged our shoulders and laughed. This seemed perfectly par for the course.
Bonnie groggily went off to the bathroom to eliminate some of the liters of fluid they had dripped in to make sure she was hydrated enough. The amount of adavant and benedryl she had had infused made her speech slurred and slowed her dance to the bathroom with her infusion machine in tow. As usual, Bonnie was Bonnie, and made fun of herself.
See you tomorrow, we said. We kissed through my mask. I touched her with my thin silicone gloves, and I stumbled on home, driving v e ry c a r e f u l l y. What's one more delay after the roller coaster ride of the last nine months?
Bonnie called at 8 AM this morning (Wednesday). The new "start time" for the Bone Marrow Transplant was now 9 AM. They had been re-prepping Bonnie by dripping in more anti-this and anti-that and more Adavant and Benedryl and more fluids starting at around 4 or 5 AM.
An hour late, the pink bag of stem cells arrived. Wow, our holy grail: a liter of pink fluid in a plastic bag with three nipples.
We spontaneously started giving thanks to the Donor and to Dr. Stone and Dr. Cutler and to Ilene Galinsky and Toni Debeau. And thanks to our nurses on 5A and 6B and to our friends and family etc. The two nurses in the room smiled as we did this reflection outloud.
Bonnie prayed briefly over the stem cells. Bonnie sang to the stem cells as they were dripped in for a long time. I think she was singing them lullabyes she would sing to her kids and grandkids. But her speech was slurred so it was hard to make out much of what she was saying. When Bonnie really needed to be understood she would pull herself together and form her thoughts and words v e r y c a r e f u l l y.
The nurse was there every minute of the proceedure and monitored Bonnie's heart function constantly. Bonnie was hooked up to a complex heart monitoring machine with a dozen colored leads from her body. Bonnie looked like Gulliver, tethered to her bed. Her blood pressure and temperature were checked every ten mintues for over an hour while the stem cells dripped in. Her temperature and heart rate and blood pressure all swung around much more than usual.
When it was all over Bonnie was a bit chilled and tired. She lay back and shivered and I covered her and pressed her covers to her. Then I touched her up and down until she seemed comfortable, saying "TaTa, TaTa" all the while. This was my father's sound when he would cover me with Nivea Creme when I was a baby. "TaTa TaTa is now our mantra when laying on hands on Bonnie or a crying Grandson. It seems to work wonders. Try it sometime.
I went home and collapsed into sleep.
100 minutes later Bonnie called to say that a second bag of stem cells had just shown up and they were infusing them into her. Jeezzzz, whatever happened to keeping us informed? They had unhooked the heart monitoring machine and all of the sticky leads. What the hell is this unannounced Act II? But there was nothing for me to do; Two nurses check the name and ID numbers on the bag against Bonnie's wristband. It should be alright. Furthermore, I was too exhausted to do anything anyway unless my bed was on fire. I collapsed back into a heavy sleep.
I am going now at 10 PM to see Bonnie and to bring her computer to her. She says she had chills which they treated with more drugs.
Well, the baby stem cells are onboard. Nature will take it's course.
I hope our new baby stem cells will have an easier time making themselves at home, than we did traveling our route to get these very stem cells into Bonnie's system.
May life prevail.
/Daniel for BanD