Sunday morning here in Suite 329 of the Maximov Center for Cellular Therapy. Box 329 the nurses call my little abode. I was up early, feeling really pretty good! I went around the room, taking photos of all that is required in the business of isolation. You see, as my counts drop, and they are plummeting, sterility is key.
My room is wiped down every morning – windows, walls, floors, tables, chairs, laptop, iPad and iPhone – all cleansed. New sterile sheets are torn open from sealed packages and the bed changed. While all this takes place, I am in the shower for a quick rinse off in sterile shower water, followed by the step by step Vodka cleansing. From head to toe with what I guess are three types of Vodka? I have never seen any with a yellow tinge, but it does exist. Gauze, glass bottles I am so afraid I will break, and then more gauze. The final act is cleansing my rubber Crocs. Yes, plastic can be good. And then I rip open my vacuum sealed sterile gown, usually of the purple or blue daisy variety, and dress for the day.
Now for the yuckiest part? I know, Mrs. Tuck would never accept that word in any essay (perhaps abominable?), but I think even she might agree, this is yucky – for two weeks, I cannot brush my teeth! I am to swish and gargle three to four times a day with a special solution. During times of low to no WBC, tissue can become soft and swollen. To use a toothbrush during this period leads to a very high risk of gum bleeding and severe infection. So I suffer with the pangs of desperately wanting to grab my toothbrush from the drawer, sneak in and brush. I can see my obituary now – she died from brushing her teeth.
Even dishes are ultra cleansed. They are washed in a solution in the sink, and then placed in a bin to soak in an antiseptic solution, then after an hour rinsed in sterile water.
My room is outfitted with two special air filtering units, one is on constantly to re-filter the already filtered air. When I leave my room to go into the ante room (it too has special air
filtering) where the bathroom is located, I must close my glass door fully, then turn off the ‘blue light” in the bathroom before entering. The light as a special microbial light which destroys bacteria. It is on at all times, except when I enter. They are serious about sterilization and cleanliness.
Medications? Wow, I take eighteen pills a day, and am required to drink three nutritional supplement drinks in addition to meals. And sometimes those drinks are far tastier than the food. Although lunch today was excellent, so I cut back on the chocolate nutri stuff.
Dr. Fedorenko spent some time this morning explaining the next few days and my blood counts. In about 3 days my counts should bottom out – specifically the Leukocyte levels. Below are photos of my counts to date. Day 1 indicates the day after stem cell transplantation, Day 2, etc…. Will will bottom out around July 17th or 18th for a period of a few days. Thats when my shaved head will go shiny bald, no buzz stubble! Watch for a glowing bald head to appear soon. The counts will gradually climb from that point to engraftment on roughly July 25. Upon engraftment, they will continue to rise until I am released! I have constructed a home made calendar which lists the remaining days. Every evening before I go to bed I cross off the day, Little things mean a lot.
So what happens when your WBC is low? I found out! You get dizzy…and your BP bottoms out. Cell phones were ringing Dr. F. as mine hit 70/38 – not good. I received two bags of something in my IV, which raised it to 84/48 – better. I had to lie down for a few hours, and must now hit the call button whenever I need to get up and move around. They think I need assistance to prevent falls, I protest. I need no one to accompany me the the bathroom – thank you!
I have rented some great movies, spent time reading, and look out the window often to the park side of the hospital. Some day soon I want to sit on those white benches under the fifty foot trees soaking up the sun. Reading, pondering, and planning for my return home. So many friends to see that I have missed dearly, and friendships lost for a bit that have been renewed over this illness and long distance connection. I love you all…