It’s Friday morning and I got home yesterday afternoon. I still can’t believe how easy everything has been!
I’ll go back to the start. I checked in (yes just like a hotel) on Tuesday, early evening. I was taken to what was more or less a standard hospital room by the gentleman who met me at hospital’s front desk. Amusingly he “showed me the features of the room” like they do in really fancy hotels!
Then came a string of visits from nurses, doctors, housekeeping and room service (I’ll loop back to that in a moment!) to introduce themselves, measure my height, weight, temperature, blood pressure and pulse, explain how things work, check if I needed anything, and take dinner requests. The attention was quite flattering really and everyone went out of their way to tell me how grateful they were that I was doing this procedure.
I was given the option to leave the hospital for the evening (as long as I was Nil by Mouth from midnight) but as I had nowhere to be I opted to have dinner from the red leather folder labeled “Room Service” in gold script. I told you it was like a hotel!
A rather passable meal of vegetable soup, pizza and wedges arrived swiftly followed by a cup of tea on a silver platter. After which I had a shower, dimmed the lights and slipped into bed to channel hop on the widescreen TV mounted on the wall in front of me.
The next morning I woke early, out of habit mainly, so by 6:30 when they came to do my obs I was already showered and in my fine hospital attire of open-back gown, dressing gown, sexy surgical stockings and (sorry there are no photos) net underwear that to the untrained eye look like an old dishcloth!
My anaesthetist came to see me to explain a bit more detail as to what I was to expect, then around 7:15 he escorted me out of my room, off the ward into the lift, down to the third basement, along a poorly lit tunnel up another lift into another building on the street, casually pointing out people and places of his workplace; flirting with the nurses as he went.
They put me on a trolley and chatted with me; told me about the drugs they were going to give me; and warned me that the anaesthetic they were about to administer had a funny taste. “Name that taste!” he challenged me, and as I drifted off to sleep I remember saying it was like a really limey lemonade…
I heard chatter in the background; it was about me. They’d given me paracetamol. Things had gone well. I opened my eyes and saw a clock. 8:40. Impressive, to my mind. A nurse noticed and asked how I was. I tried to say I was fine and coughed. I can only assume that was the rubber tube (they’d had me on my front so to keep my airways open they’d put a tube down. Thank goodness I was asleep for THAT!)
I nodded and closed my eyes. I could tell we were moving and as we came back onto the ward I came round a bit more. People kept coming up to me saying well done, thank you, words of encouragement. At that stage I was able to do little but wave like the queen and smile weakly.
They shuffled me onto the bed where the room service wanted my lunch, dinner and breakfast orders. I told her I didn’t know but under pressure and fatigue I got rid of her by ordering a soup. “What kind?” “That kind” got rid of her. I fired off a text to the nearest and dearest.
I dozed off again, coming round at about 1pm to a ringing phone and the soup arriving.
I lynched myself up and ate the soup; which was surprisingly nice. I was beginning to feel like myself again.
I communicated with the outside world through the wonder of social media and free wifi, spoke to one or two people. My throat was sore from the tube so I was drinking a lot of water; but other than that I had a feeling in my lower back like I’d been on a long car journey. Other than that I was feeling rather peachy!
The team who collected the marrow came round to see me – about 6 of them. They chatted, checked my wounds (a little patch above each buttock – again no photos sorry!) and thanked me again.
I had been warned that it was common for patients to feint the first time they got out of bed, so to ask for help. Considering the large amount I was drinking because of my throat and the saline drip I was on, I needed to pee quite a lot. The first time they brought me a bottle, but the second time I had asked to be helped up at least in part because I wanted to move! I managed that with relative ease and no negative consequences so after that I took it upon myself to gingerly move around as I saw fit; negotiating the movement of my drip with increasing skill.
A little later a nurse caught me coming back from the toilet and noticed I was bleeding; so redid my dressings.
Mid afternoon I had a visit from a lady from the Anthony Nolan Trust. She was a volunteer who went through a brief questionnaire about my health, pain, side effects etc. She chatted to me about the reasons I was there, and the next steps. I’ll hopefully go into those in a later blog post. Don’t worry it’s not going on forever – but I do plan at least one more after this!! She also gave me a little goody bag containing a few bits of information, a “Save a Life” T-shirt with a “I saved a life” logo on the sleeve, and a beautiful DONOR pin; which I am so proud of!
My left hand was beginning to ache from the two cannulas it had (I have delicate hands – don’t judge me) so I asked if they could come out. The nurse was initially skeptical as they really should stay in until I was discharged; but as they were uncomfortable and both rather large (in fact they were both supersized. Seriously you could house wildlife in them!) they agreed and removed them. I had to keep the bandages on overnight to stop the craterous wounds they left but they’re well on the way to healing now.
I still had no pain, but after declining pain killers the nurse (who seemed to think I was being a hero) sternly chastised me to the point that I agreed to have them by my bed in case I needed them overnight. I was feeling a little achy so took an ibuprofen before sleep.
5:30am yesterday morning and I was just coming round (it’s becoming a habit…) when the delightful night nurse Amy (she calls me sweetie and has an even warmer manner than the rest) came to do my obs and take the blood needed to check if I’m anaemic (ultimately the test of whether I can go home or not). She then let me go back to sleep, which of course I could not do so I got up, had a shower and shave (complimentary Moulton Brown toiletries doncha know?!) and put my own clothes on. I was really looking forward to going home! I got used to sitting in the armchair for a change, after being horizontal for so long. I was feeling a little stiffer than the previous day and a touch achy so dutifully took my paracetamol and waited for my breakfast.
Another consultant, the one who met me on my very first visit for my medical, called with his entourage to say hello and check my dressings, shake my hand and ask about pain. He told me I must have a very strong X chromosome because women have high pain thresholds! He said I was a little anaemic but that was to be expected; and that I should eat lots of iron rich food.
Around 9am the nurse came in with some spare dressings and some painkillers for me to take home, got me to sign my paperwork and told me I could leave! I was a little surprised as I was under the impression I was to be around until at least 11. My friend was on his way to help me home and it was fine for me to wait until he arrived.
I got home just after midday yesterday and I was feeling good so we walked round to the shop to pick up some lunch. In hindsight that may have been a little too much exertion as after lunch I had a 3-hour nap and was still in bed for 11!
Today I got up a little later but still only around 7:30. I was a bit sorer and achier today so popped another pill. Since I’ve had a shower and got comfortable though I’ve been found. I’ve learned my lesson and I’ve been good, but house-arrest is kind of boring even with books, blogs, social media and TV, films etc to watch.
My thoughts have been drawn to the recipient of my donation. By now I assume they will have received it. I found out that it is an adult male weighing around 9st; but that’s all I know. He hould have been in the same hospital, he could have been on another continent. Even with this transplant there is only 50% chance of success (that’s a general statistic, not specific to him) so I truly hope that it works.
As I said I hope to do a follow up blog in the next few weeks to keep you informed of my progress; but until then I hope that this blog has helped to shed a little light on the process of stem cell donation, why it is important and how easy it is. You can only join the Anthony Nolan register if you’re between 16 and 30, so it’s desperately important that we get the message out there and encourage as many young people as possible to sign up and be a match for someone in need.
Until that final blog post, take care and please do get in touch if you have any questions.