Stem Cell Transplants, Moscow, and Borscht…life with Lisa in Russia.

The “No, I didn’t die” post!

So, where have I been for two – three days? Did I die?

I was not with him!

I was not with him!

Was I vanished to no man’s land with Snowden, in transition at the airport? No, but I have been in a bit of transition of my own.
Ahhh, and then yesterday happened.
Oh what a day. The morning started just fine. I was fairly energized given I still had high doses of chemo wracking my body, but not too bad. I did notice that my speech was slurred, my hands shook, and the dizziness was through the roof. But all a part of the chemo I assumed. After sitting up in bed for an hour, I fell asleep until close to 2:00 p.m.

Awoke for lunch, and then slept again until about 5:00 p.m. when I awoke and spoke with some friends on Viber. All of a sudden I had to hang up. No explanation just…”I’m so cold, I’ve got to go”.  Violent chills and shaking wracked my body so very suddenly. No I mean it, like the kind you would get if you went on a Polar Plunge naked in the Antarctic at 90 below zero, then climbed out of the water and stood on an iceberg for a few hours, sans towel.

Yes, that cold!

Yes, that cold!

I hit the nurses button, and in no time she walked into the outer room – my favorite nurse – she gowned up, then saw me curled in a tight fetal position, totally under the covers and shaking. “Leeza, Leeza” she said and I could not answer, only pull my head out from the covers to shake even more. She dialed Dr. Fedorenko immediately and I did my best to speak with him, but all I got out was “cold, breathing hard”.  My blood pressure had gone from 70/46 to 178/116 – within an hour. Shock or what, I have no clue, but the nurse was given instructions, and I was given two shots. One was antihistamine and I have no clue what the other shot included. It took over an hour for the chills and violent shakes to cease.

And do you know what happened in that hour?
The sweet nurse, who always calls me Leeza Leeza, pulled up a chair, knelt over me and held me like a momma would hold her precious baby. She held me, stroked my forehead, and wiped my tears. For an hour…there are no words to describe the comfort held in those sixty minutes. The power of touch. The power of love extended one human to another with no words passing between. Powerful. Healing. I fell asleep in her arms.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

Then at 9:00 p.m. (can you imagine?) Dr. Fedorenko shows up to check on me, do more blood draws looking for infection, and sat with me as I slept until the results were returned. He wakes me, says no infection, but he will do more testing in the morning. I drifted off…

This morning – no chills, but enormous fatigue. Blood was drawn at 6:15 – earlier than normal, and I slept. The good doc entered three hours later to announce he had found the cause of all the trauma. I had bottomed out a day earlier than expected. A day earlier than he had planned, and most certainly a day early to my shocked body!

Hemoglobin: 80,000
Leukocytes: 0.03
Platelets: 10,000

He ordered a platelet infusion, and waltzed in an half hour later holding “the” bag. I was astounded! I had no clue platelets were gold! He said hematologists in Moscow call them “Russian Gold”, and I agree. Platelets in while I slept, line unhooked while I slept. And then – I awoke around noon feeling so much stronger. Not the usual tackle the world strong you may feel, but it sure felt good to me.

"Russian Gold"

“Russian Gold”

For the first time in two days I could sit up in bed for more than a few minutes at a time. I am hastily trying to catch up on neglected emails, and the news Stateside.

The “Neutropenic Stage”
The next three days are called the “Neutropenic Stage” of the Stem cell transplant. My leukocyte count will drop even further, possibly to 0.0. My platelets will be carefully watched to monitor another possible infusion, as will hemoglobin for transfusion. Tonight I begin twice daily IV’s of strong antibiotics to fend off possible infections that might occur.

Here is the definition:
“The third phase of transplantation is the period of neutropenia. This phase typically lasts intensely for 2-3 days, but immunity deficiency can last from 2-4 weeks. At this point, the patient is without significant immune function. In addition, toxicity from the conditioning high dose chemotherapy regimen has typically disrupted normal mucosal and skin barriers, allowing invasion of endogenous bacteria. During the first part of this phase, the major problems encountered are infections from endogenous bacteria, the reactivation of certain viral infections, and nutritional deficiencies. Patients typically find it difficult to ingest sufficient calories, and supplementation with parenteral nutrition is often necessary.”

I’m drinking my Chocolate nutrients as I type…

It's really very good, I promise!

It’s really very good, I promise!

By Saturday, Dr. Fedorenko has stated that I should be entering the Engraftment Stage, the period when my stem cells begin to “take” in my body. How does one know when engraftment begins? My fuzzy Army buzz cut will fall out, and I will be “put on your sunglasses” shiny bald! With delight! And it’s all success from there, not instant by any means. It’s a difficult and very long uphill climb with plateaus and valleys, risks included. But within nine to twelve months you, me, and the world, will see what miracles may occur.



Goodnight Moon,



6 Responses to “The “No, I didn’t die” post!”

  1. Pat Gallagher

    1st – OMdouble G!!! I sure am glad you didn’t die! I cried when I read about your sweet nurse. I cant imagine many nurses/people that would just hold you gently, firmly in their arms and their hearts for a whole hour. What is her name? or is it easier to call her Sweet Nurse? It so figures that you “skipped a grade” so to speak and got a day ahead of yourself. I think that is a good omen. Stay away from Snowden, 3 weeks in the international terminal in Moscow means he is a really icky individual. I hope you go shiny sunglasses bald – right on schedule!
    Love and kisses,

  2. Eddie Nash

    OK reading your story made this full grown man cry. As I read I remember my sweet lady Wendy Nash as she had her HSCT In Chicago. You are rounding the corner and your restoration has begun!! Praise God !!!

  3. Megan

    Love reading your blog…. Miss you, love you, praying for you!!!!

  4. Kristy

    You made me cry too! You will have to give me her name too. She will be shocked when I give her a big hug and a kiss on my first day back there!! xx

  5. Mark

    Jeez Louise! All I can say is all’s well that ends well, so we are all happy your summer trip to the cold of a Siberian winter was just an expected occurrence that came a little earlier. Shouldn’t you ask the doc if there are any more surprise trips you will be going on? We all want to hear about the Maui Beach day, and the Rio Carnivale day, but we REALLY want you to get the the Mt. Everest, top-of-the-world day.


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