Yesterday afternoon, we got the phone call we have been waiting for. We were informed that George has a bone marrow transplant hospital admission date of Saturday, July 2nd. The next day, he will start on his 2 day regiment of high intensity chemo followed by 3 days of total body radiation (twice daily). Then on Friday, July 8 he will have his transplant. He will receive new bone marrow from an unknown donor. That will be referred to as Day Zero…his new birthday, in essence. Then the waiting game begins…we wait for his new marrow to engraft, meaning the new cells travel through the blood to the bone marrow, where they begin to make new white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. This usually takes 2-4 weeks.
There are several things that need to happen before the hospital admission. First, George must have a consultation with the radiologist – he has to measured and assessed and advised. Also, the day before admission he will go to the hospital and have a Hickman catheter, or central line, on the right side of his chest wall and a PICC line in his arm. Through these, he will receive chemotherapy, his new bone marrow cells and any blood or platelet transfusions he will need after his marrow is wiped out from the chemo.
In addition to that, he and I both will have to attend a virtual class on June 23 where we will learn everything we ever wanted to know about the bone marrow transplant process and more. We will learn what to pack, what he can’t bring, how to clean our home for when he returns, how to meal prep, etc….It is a 3 hour class so I anticipate a lot of information!
Two weeks before the transplant, George will start taking a medication called Ursodiol. This will protect his liver and protect him from developing Graft vs Host Disease (GvHD) of the liver.
He will also need to have a COVID test 3 days before admission. We are hoping he can have his radiation consult the same day so we don’t have to drive out to Philadelphia more than we absolutely have to.
We were filled with several conflicting emotions during the phone call…excitement and anticipation because we are moving towards the cure for George that we so desperately want…but also fear because of the terrible power of the chemotherapy and the radiation…the damage they can do, how vulnerable he will be to infection during the treatment, the possible side effects of the treatment and the possibility that the new marrow cells won’t engraft.
But mostly, we are feeling humbled and grateful to George’s anonymous bone marrow donor who doesn’t know him from Adam, yet is undergoing the process of having his/her marrow removed and sent to George, giving him a chance of a cure from his leukemia.
Here we go….