Well, after months of waiting, wondering and hoping, Jason’s bone marrow transplant has finally been scheduled. We learned yesterday that the donor will be harvested on April 17th, hand-couriered here from Europe, and the transplant will occur on the 18th.
Over the last few days he’s had a myriad of pre-transplant testing (EKG, CAT scan, blood work… etc.), and his 1st day of high-dose chemotherapy began today. This initiates the Conditioning phase of treatment, which is to completely destroy all of his existing bone marrow. He’ll receive 6 days of this chemo as an out-patient, and then get admitted on April 11th for 6 more days of chemo. At his lowest point, the 18th, they will perform the transplant and hope that his body quickly begins using the new marrow to produce its own healthy cells.
The transplant itself is a pretty anti-climatic event. He’ll receive 2 bags of blood, like a normal transfusion, but these will be from his donor and contain the precious bone marrow inside.
As every patient is different, we’re not certain of the side effects the transplant may have on Jason. We do know that the 1st week will be the most difficult and painful, with his body fighting through Graft-Versus-Host disease. This is typical and necessary for any transplant procedure, as the host (Jason) fights against and hopefully accepts the graft (donor’s marrow.) This is also the most crucial stage for him to get through, as his body must finally accept the graft to begin making new and healthy cells.
If all goes well, he will be released from the hospital in approximately 30 days and continue with 60 days of out-patient testing and evaluation. And not to jump too far ahead, but if he is healthy enough, we look forward to possibly being home in Pittsburgh by August. Everything he’ll do after the transplant will revolve around him not getting sick. His white blood cells will be extremely low for a long time – not allowing him to fight off infections and bacteria. So we’ll all have to be very, very careful – especially Jason – who may have to wear a mask and gloves in public for a number of months.
Our last plea for help comes not only from us, but from M. D. Anderson. I can’t imagine the amount of blood products they go through in a given week (Jason alone uses sometimes up to 24 bags of platelets and 6 bags of blood), but there is always a low supply here. We were approached recently about initiating a blood drive of friends and family in the local area. As there are only a few of us, that’s not really an option. (The Houston ENSR office was wonderful enough to have a drive in Jason’s name in February!!) So Lex came up with the idea of discussing the possibility of having a drive in Pittsburgh, or generally having people across the country donate blood/platelets to their local blood bank. We’re not sure of the specifics yet, but have been told that Jason can get hospital credit for people donating. I’ll leave Lex in charge of that. J Regardless, any little bit that you can do to increase the blood bank supply, helps innumerable amounts of people.
It’s been a long and difficult journey for us, and although fearful of the final steps, we are so grateful Jason was given this additional chance. It may be difficult for us to quickly respond to emails, phone calls, etc. over the next 6 weeks (especially me, as I’ll be staying in the hospital with Jason), but please know how important they are to us. And thank you so much for everyone that has called, written, helped, been a shoulder to vent or cry on, and been the source of a million other gestures of love and friendship that we’ve been overwhelmed and honored to receive.
Thanks again for letting us explain the next sequence of events and keeping us strong through all of it. We’ll be sure to keep you informed as things progress.