Yes, I had one day of total freak out. I was not nearly as giving and peaceful about the whole thing as I came across. Here's how I felt on that day of extreme emotions: What am I doing putting myself in potential danger for someone I do not know and most likely never will? Why am I volunteering for anesthesia when some people do not survive anesthesia?? What if she does not survive and my bone marrow was worthless and her family is sad and she is dead??? Morbid, yes, but, according to the papers I had to read and sign as consent to the procedure, totally normal. Among many documents that they had me sign, I literally signed a form stating that I understand the possibility of the patient not surviving and I will not take it personally or take blame for such an occasion. Whoa. That's pretty major - not take the blame for the death of another person?? Put myself in danger, albeit very small odds of danger, for someone I don't know and might not survive?? Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I had moments of such thinking. But, the desire to follow through, give something of myself, and hopefully be a part of a new life for a woman and her loved ones won in the end. I knew that God was going to use this experience for some reason. If the odds are as small of matching us together as winning the lottery and we beat those odds, I passed all the health requirements and testing, and she was healthy enough for the transplant, clearly this was something God intended to happen...for SOME reason. It's wild that He always has a reason and,
So, after more blood tests, an EKG and then another EKG to just be sure everything was good to go, a physical in Lubbock at the Cancer Center (yikes), a chest x-ray, a few more blood tests, and a number of signed consent forms, we set the date for the donation. Our first date came and went as the patient's cancer relapsed so we had to put it on hold. Two weeks later, I flew to Ft Worth for the procedure.
Let's just say, I had no idea what to expect. I did some research, read some blogs, but never got a good idea of what was going to happen. I had my mom, mistakenly, telling me it was a simple procedure and the internet telling me that it was much more than that. I put on my brave panties and just went with the flow, something I am not very good at. We arrived at Cook Children's Hospital in Ft Worth at 5:15 a.m. and signed in. Of course, it's a children's hospital so nurses and administrative personal kept referring to me as "mom" - most women my age are there for a child. Strange moment - no, mom is the woman next to me and I am the child! Sidetrack... We checked in, took yet another urine sample, and were introduced to my pre-op patient. Sadly, I do not remember her name - a constant failing on my part. But I remember this: she was kind, cheery (especially for pre-6 am), informative, and interested. She was gentle with the many prodding's one has to have for an IV and more blood work. I was disappointed to find out that your pre-op and post-op nurses are not the same person. I, personally, would like to have the same person all the way through...oh well. As one who has only ever had the standard wisdom teeth removal surgery, this whole experience was new to me!
While mom sat in a standard hospital room chair, I dressed in an ever attractive patient gown and snuggled up to warmed blankets on a reclined bed/chair thing. Great invention, by the way - to have pre-warmed sheets. I need one of those devices... Jamie, my Be The Match counselor, arrived shortly and so did more nurses, technicians, my whole surgery team, and 3 members of the anesthesia team...all at once...all sharing information that seemed fairly important as my life would soon be in their hands...poking my veins for more blood tests. Oh. My. Goodness. Too many people in one tiny room asking too many important questions! I took it pretty well - my mother was a little overwhelmed. For a woman who has spent her life handling medical situations well and who is always very composed, it was interesting to see her in a reversed role: watching her own child be in the patient chair. I guess the situation is different when it's your own daughter, or son, in the chair about to undergo a surgery that you thought was more standard and simple than it sounds the morning of, sitting in the room with so many doctors, nurses, and personnel. Whoa. We made it through though and we are the wiser because of it. It is not a challenging procedure but it is anesthesia, nonetheless. It is not a lengthy surgery, but it is surgery, nonetheless.
Best part of the morning? The sedative before rolling me into the surgical room. Whoa baby, no wonder people do drugs! For a few moments, everything is so relaxed and cozy and free. Don't get me wrong, I have no intentions to seek this feeling again. But, it sure was a nice treat and a warm, cozy feeling before counting backwards, zoning out, and waking up 1.5 hours later only to think you had just dozed off. So odd to "wake up" and think no time has passed when the reality is that over an hour has passed, you lost over a LITER of bone marrow, and were medicinally reawaken. Weird. During the surgery, I was given a pint of my own blood back - giving this blood was part of the pre-op process in Midland. I "donated" blood to myself in case I needed it after the surgery. Why did I need the blood, one might ask? When bone marrow is taken from your bones, your body feels the need to fill in the gaps. So, my body flooded the now empty bones with blood which, in turn, made me slightly anemic as my body was "short" on blood. The body regenerates this blood and the bone marrow over a short time but, as I have an extensive history of fainting, they did not want to risk the in-between time. So, I had a transfusion of my own blood to help my 5'9" structure not fall to the ground or the bathroom floor while fainting. Thank you, medical team. Been there, done that, not so fun!
The recovery from the bone marrow donation is not lengthy or painful. Yes, I was sore and had a day or two of feeling slightly flu-ish. But, they gave good painkillers. And, a cozy fire, good book, and your sweet dog to lay on your sore body goes a long way. Worst part of recovery? Being so bloated from the anesthesia and painkillers. It feels like you gained about 10 pounds in one day. Not fun. Not pretty. I stopped using the medicine they gave me after I realized that the side effect was tight fitting pants, constipation and swollen belly syndrome. No thank you.
So, should you register for the bone marrow registry? Heck yes. Was this a huge time commitment and financial burden? Not at all - they pay for everything and you could be back to work after a day or two of recovery if necessary. Was this an experience that I will forever appreciate? You bet. Go now - www.marrow.org and register. It's worth it. It could literally save someone's life. Remember, if they are at the point of considering a bone marrow donation, especially from someone unrelated, then they are normally out of other options. There are over 2,000,000 donors in the registry - and that is not enough. Many patients are just treating the cancer, waiting for a match to come up in the registry. Maybe you are the exact person that they have been waiting for?
Hugs and best wishes from Marfa,