Monday, 15 June 2009

"You've got gallons of stem cells..."

Today (Monday) was first of the harvest days, I've had 4 days of the GCSF injections and my lower back and breast-bone/ribs were really painful, to the extent I couldn't pick things off of the floor and have had difficulty sleeping.

In a way then I was looking forward to the harvest but also apprehensive about it too because of the general procedure (see previous post). Anyways, we arrived around 08:20 right on time for our 08:30 appointment.

Things kicked off with a general tour and overview and then bloods taken to see if a harvest would be worthwhile (i.e. had I generated enough stem cells for collection), this is a quick test that says definite yes, definite no or maybe; I was a maybe and this prompted another longer test that took about an hour to complete.

So at about 10:10 the result was announced, they were looking for a number in the area of 8 or better. I was 60!!! Goodness knows then why the first test was so lukewarm then but it meant that it wasn't a wasted trip and the machine was prepped.

This took a fair while to hook up and once all was ready I had a local anaesthetic to my arm so that they could insert the needle that would draw the blood out of my body, the return blood was hooked up to my Hickman line as expected. However, the machine started complaining about the return line pressure and I ended up with a needle in the other arm for the return flow.

I was told that this isn't that uncommon as Hickman lines are designed for chemo and not the pressure of the "blood extraction machine" (there was a technical term they used but I've forgotten), it just made things awkward as my mobility was vastly reduced.

The procedure is 200 minutes and fortunately I was able to sleep for the first 103. When I woke up I discovered that the machine variables had been tweaked to eek out more cells from me given my high count (this had been discussed prior to me being hooked up so I was OK with that).

Spending the rest of the time was the nurses taking more blood (they were worried that I had spiked another temperature) and feeding me calcium tablets and milkshakes, a side effect of the procedure is that one of the anti-coagulants causes a transient calcium loss that causes a tingling in the lips, fingers, toes hence the calcium replacement measures.

Unhooking was uneventful - just a bit sore - and we set off home. Just before we got to Maidenhead I received a call from the hospital indicating that I "had gallons of stem cells", this is great news as it means that I don't need to go back tomorrow (Tuesday) and I don't need to have anymore injections - woo hoo!

A trip to Oxford is still on the cards for Tuesday though as it's the radiation test dose, at least though that's in the afternoon so tomorrow will hopefully be a less exhausting day.

Vincent was asking more about the procedure, stem cells and my treatment - I'll explain as best I can...
  • The treatment today was to collect peripheral stem cells for my own use, the GCSF injections stimulate the bone marrow to over produce the white cells (hence the bone ache) and the blood collection machine extracts blood from me, spins out the cells and returns the rest.
  • The stem cells are to be used only if the umbilical cord transplant fails, so the stimulation of white cells (although I believe in some instances this is used for some transplant patients)
  • The cells taken from me today, should they be used, will return me to my current remission state with a likelihood of relapse so the umbilical cord is key as that is my chance for longer term survival
Hope this answers the question!


  1. Thank you Chris!

    With some further reading from my side, I understand.

    The umbilical cord transport or bone marrow from unrelated donors is the first procedure. Yes, it looks like the umbilical cord transport has been used for some patients since 1998 in a particular article.

    Getting and injecting the peripheral stem cells will give the possibility of your bone marrow recover so it can generate heathly blood cells.

    Thank you Chris! Haven't seen you playing poker! What else have you been doing during this great weather?

    Take Care Chris!!!

  2. No worries - most of the time is being spent just being with family here at home and helping Sarah as much as possible. Mainly I'm trying to build my strength up ahead of treatment so not too many day trips I'm afraid!