The transplant unit on the Lymphoma/Leukemia floor on 7 Monti at North Shore Hospital is smaller than one would expect. We’ve spent time on 7 Monti, but never before had admittance to the magical land of transplant rooms. Behind the forbidden door, is a short hallway, not more than thirty feet long. There are four rooms on the hallway, one per patient, each with a curtain where the door would usually be. This is because of the air exchange that helps keep germs from finding their way into the rooms. These rooms are small but private. There’s a bed, night table, recliner and small fridge…some open shelving and a few drawers for personal items.
The orientation of what to expect had little new information but it’s always good to hear the routine again as repetition breeds familiarity.
We head from the hospital to the Monter Cancer Center for blood work, wait for results, and conference with the stem cell team. Rich had been feeling good, though very tired. Suddenly his appetite is non-existent. He’s looking Edward Cullen/Twilight pale. The remedy is vampire-worthy… some blood. We’re given an appointment for a transfusion of red blood cells on Saturday morning. Back to the hematology lab once more before we go home to be cross matched and typed. This needs to be done no more than 48 hours prior to any transfusions; each time.
The transfusion itself is uneventful. We’re warned about possible side effects and reactions but none come to pass. As the second unit of blood is being infused, Rich’s color begins to change from Lestat to human once more. By the end of the day, his voice is stronger than it’s been in a long time. This gift from an anonymous donor has amazing effects. We know there are more transfusions to come as we continue on our journey. We can meet them with full expectations of renewed energy. We give thanks to those who give this gift.
We had hoped to continue to use this time of near-normalcy to get in some last licks that will be verboten in a few weeks when we enter that little hall of little rooms. But a van imprinting his license number into our rear bumper when we were stopped at a light on our way to Monter was going to detour us to the ER after the transfusion. And the Monter visit itself was longer than expected. We were told two hours… apparently that’s per unit. We were unprepared with lunch or even a morning nosh. And the café-of-last-resort in the center was closed. Dammit. Local eateries don’t deliver to the cancer center. This is not our usual experience here. What happened to all our plans? God is laughing.
We finally luck out and a place in Great Neck will deliver some wraps and salads to us.
Newly transfused, no longer hungry, six hours later we head to the ER and are given some pain and happy meds to relax the muscles that are in an iron grip at this point. We head home.
The week ahead holds more blood work, possible platelets and moving ever closer to the stem cell harvest. Within a week we can expect to begin that process. As Seneca, the first century Roman philosopher said, “From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.” When we pass through those doors for a thirty one day journey like no other, there is no turning back, we can only go onward. We’re almost there!