Monday, August 14, 2006

To Houston again: the Real Deal

We finally have something like a schedule! Here’s what we learned from Friday’s visit with Dr. Andersson and the transplant coordinator and the research nurse:
  • I’ll be admitted to the hospital on Tuesday evening (August 15)

  • Treatment will begin on Wednesday morning (August 16): there will be four days of chemotherapy (busolfan and fludarabine), ending on Saturday

  • Sunday and Monday will be “days off” (why do I have trouble believing this?)

  • Transplant Day will be on Tuesday (August 22d): Peter’s stems cells will be infused into me through the Central Venous Catheter that was inserted this past Thursday. The process will take several hours, and will be very much like the transfusions I’ve experienced in the past when I needed red blood cells or platelets. It’s just that this time I’ll be getting the seeds of a new immune system.
After this I’ll be in the hospital for another three to three and a half weeks. My white- and red-cell counts will come down (if they haven’t already done so) very low, and they’ll watch me closely for fevers, infections, and other things. They’ll release me from the hospital when they judge that I no longer require round the clock IVs; presumably there are other criteria, but this seems to be a very important one.
Following release from the hospital, I’ll be a daily outpatient for 100 days. During this time we’ll be living at the Rotary House, the hotel we’ve stayed in during our previous trips to MD Anderson. (Actually we’ll have our place at Rotary House starting tomorrow; it will be a base of operations for Anna and provide accommodations for visitors, including Mason—who arrives on Wednesday and will fly back on Sunday, and JayByrd, who’ll be helping us once again by bringing a load of our stuff in his car and then spend the night, and Lela, who’ll be helping out with Dillon while we’re in transition—more about Dillon below). Anna’s sister, Patti, arrives on Friday and will stay the weekend.
One more very important part of this: Dillon! Sadly, Dillon won’t be able to join me in the hospital. Dr. Andersson had hoped it would be possible, but apparently a check with all the other major transplant centers in the country turned up a unanimous “no” vote: although many of the centers had had experience with patients who used guide dogs, none had ever allowed the dog into the unit. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Dillon will be spending the month with Dan Schwab and Diann Grimm, the wonderful couple who raised him as a puppy, beginning when he was eight weeks old and continuing till he was 14 months old—the pint at which he returned to Guide Dogs for the Blind to receive his formal training in guidework. Dan and Diann are amazing people; clearly they did a fantastic job with Dillon, and they’ve provided similar foster care for many other guide dogs since. They love Dillon very much, and he loves them: whenever we’ve been able to get together over the years, Dillon has been just beside himself with delight—for example, when we visited them at their great new house in Richmond (near Berkeley) a few years ago, Dillon raced around their backyard at a dead run for about 30 minutes, then finally flung himself to the ground at Diann’s feet, completely and utterly worn out and happy. He’ll have a wonderful time, and we’ll be happy knowing that he’s happy out there—just as we were happy last year when Dillon stayed with Morgan and Didi Watkins while I was at St. David’s last year, enjoying their hospitality as well as the company of their three dogs (Fantom, Morgan’s first guide dog, now retired; Esther, the “general purpose” dog; and Will, Morgan’s current guide). So thanks in advance to Dan and Diann for taking such wonderful care of Dillon again, eight years or more later; and thanks for raising him so beautifully, too.
If you’re wondering how Dillon will get to California, the answer is “Mason.” When Mason leaves for his home in San Francisco on Sunday, he’ll take Dillon with him; Dan and Diann will meet the plane in San Francisco, and the transfer will be a done deal. (Mason will also be carrying a letter from Dr. Andersson explaining my situation and asking the airlines to facilitate all this.) Then, when Ledia comes to visit in September (after she’s completed her raft trip down the Mississippi and I’ve been released to float out of the hospital), she’ll bring Dillon back to us. Yay!

So… we’re off tomorrow morning, for the Real Deal this time. There’s wireless in the hospital room. I’ll write again as soon as I can after we find out the room number, telephone, etc. Until then, thanks for everything and love to each of you.


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