Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Check that box



Esther's PICC line placement and stem cell collection went very well. They drew her blood out of the PICC line, it went through the machine and extracted stem cells and plasma (plasma is the yellow bag and stem cells the red bag), and then put the rest back into her body through her port. It took 58 minutes to completely remove and replace Esther's total blood volume. The daily goal is 6 cycles because that removes the maximum number of cells in a day.

The first round didn't work because they have to prime the machine with donor blood and it tried to extract the stem cells from that blood instead of Esther's. The send the cells at the halfway point for a preliminary count. They decided after the next two harvests to check the number of cells. After two harvests, they had collected 44 million cells. The goal was about 15 million. By the time the counts came back, we'd already harvested a third set of cells. The final count was about 113 million cells.

Esther's stem cells are now cryopreserved and waiting to rescue her after her MIBG therapy and her high dose chemo.

The machine was pretty amazing and looked like something out of Lost. It's kind of funny to me that super high tech, science machines have clunky knobs. I imagine them to be more sleek. I guess scientists would rather have function over form. Either way, it is a really crazy process.

You can't see it well in the picture, but the lines on the face of the machine had arrows on them to show if the blood was coming or going and the tubing was threaded along those lines. One of each pair of black knobs was always spinning.
This is the empty machine. Under the black ledge is the large centrofuge which was constantly spinning to separate the stem cells and plasma, every hour it would pump the cells and plasma up into the hanging bags.
Our nurse was great. She was decked out in shamrocks and a shirt that said, "Irish." My Grandma O'Neill loved everything shamrock and green and would've been so thrilled to see such a proud Irish lass helping Esther. I miss my grandma a lot, and it was a just a treat to see someone decked out in shamrocks in August.
I was caught by surprise today by the news that we will have to be admitted for her next round of chemo. When we met with the doctors to discuss her treatment plan, they told us all of her chemo infusions would be outpatient after the first round. Today our clinic nurse explained that the combination of chemo drugs she'll be getting has a lot of side effects they want to monitor and one of the drugs causes severe vomiting, and they want to be able to administer anti-nausea meds through her IV and keep her hydrated.

This was a blindside and I just started crying when the nurse told me. It's a four day infusion, so I asked if we could start on Tuesday rather than Monday and that is going to work. Hopefully we'll have a full 5 days at home. We don't have any scheduled appointments. I'm praying for refreshment for these next days.



  1. I am so sorry for this blindside. You are an amazing mom. The Lord will be your strength I know. In the small frustrations of my days I am so grateful for your open and honest vulnerability. Thank you. God has created you for this moment because you are strong in Him. I am so challenged by you. We have not stopped praying for you all. Love you.

  2. That is an awesome machine. Nerded out **JUST A LITTLE** Also, bummer about her having to spend the night at the hospital. I would cry too if I wasn't prepared for the news.

    We all serve an amazing God that is surprised by nothing (even though we're like, "Huh!?!") and He has it all in control. I'll be praying you all rest in that truth.

    Enjoy your 5 days home in Fort Collins!
    As always, Mom and I pray for you all :)

  3. What's the chemo they are concerned about? If they put you in know its in E's best interest. She could always do great and have a lot of fun. Its better to get the fluids when she'll need them it makes the next time go easier. Have you asked about take home fluids? I love take home meds it give you lots of freedom but gives her more energy and rest away from the hospital. Let me know when your next round is. Maybe Aly will be off of isolation by then? Praying for u all! Jodi