Making a life

It’s really happening.

This week I went in for a three hour doctor appointment.  This appointment was meant to check me out completely to make sure that 1) I was healthy enough to donate blood stem cells and 2) that I didn’t have any condition (allergy, infection, etc) that would make it unsafe for the patient.

Since there isn’t a hospital that does this procedure close to me, I will be donating at a hospital in a different state.  I had to fly out to the hospital for this appointment in order to meet the doctors who will be doing the procedure.  I’m so grateful that they feel it’s important to have this appointment at the actual donation site.  I feel so much more comfortable with this now that I have met the people I will be working with throughout the process.

Since I had to fly, I had the option of whether to go out the night before or early the day of.  Since I have been really busy the last few weeks, I opted for the early-morning flight so that I could spend an evening at home with the kids.

3:45 am seemed to come really early, but as usually happens, I woke up pretty easily knowing I had to get up to catch my flight.  I left for the airport at 4:10 am, and was sitting in the waiting area by 5 for my 5:30 flight.

I arrived at the hospital about 9:30 am, after being picked up at the airport by one of the nicest drivers I’ve ever met (not that I’ve met that many).  He had picked up a stem cell donor earlier that morning, and so he was interested to learn about my story and the donation process.  It was nice to have someone to talk to while I made the trip from the airport to the hospital.

I was met in the lobby by a lady who would take me around to all my various appointments.  I started with a chest X-ray, then was taken down to the pediatric cancer ward for my blood draw.  I hadn’t been in a pediatric ward since visiting Bean in the hospital almost 20 years ago.  Emotionally, it was pretty intense.  I blinked back a few tears, and tried not to think about where I was.  Soon enough, it was time for the blood draw.

Now, normally when I give a blood sample it’s no big deal.   It’s an easy process, and doesn’t bother me at all.  But a few moments after she finished drawing my blood, I got hot, lightheaded, and nauseous.  And then I threw up.  I’m not proud of it, but it happened.  I will admit that after that experience, I’m nervous about how I’ll react to a 6-8 hour procedure where I’m hooked up to a machine which is drawing blood.  I’m nervous…but it’s something I know I can get through.  Throughout this process, I continue to remind myself that nothing I will go through is anything like having cancer.  So I can’t complain.

Following the blood draw was an EKG to check my heart, and then it was the actual doctor appointment – pretty standard stuff except for the fact that we were talking about stem cell donation.  My doctor is a triathlete who completed a half Ironman a few weeks ago, so immediately we had something in common to talk about.  (And bonus?  He told me I was really fast when I said I finished my marathon in 4:44.  I think I love this doctor…)  I found out that medically, I am really boring.  Which is a really good thing.  No issues or concerns to speak of.

After the checkup we talked more about the actual donation process.  I’ll be honest, it isn’t going to be the most fun thing I’ve ever done.  6-8 hours in a hospital bed, unable to move my arm, get up, or do pretty much anything.  (Bedpans were mentioned…eww).  They told me that the worst side effect of the donation process is boredom.  Most of the things I like to do to pass time involve using both arms.  Knitting, reading, blogging…I’m going to have to find a lot of movies or hope that the hospital WiFi can support streaming video…

Boredom aside, the thing that worries me most about the donation process is the recovery.  The recovery is supposed to be pretty easy.  I mean, it’s not like I’m having major surgery.  But as part of the process they will have to use bloodthinners, and when removing the stem cells they also end up removing some platelets.  This means that I will have an increased risk of bleeding and bruising for several days after the procedure.  I won’t be allowed to shave, or floss.  I have to be very careful not to fall down, hit my head, etc.  I won’t be able to work out, or do anything strenuous.  I have to avoid anything that could potentially cause internal injuries or bleeding (not that I’d be wanting to do those things anyway…).  I also won’t be allowed to lift anything heavy (over 5 pounds) for a few days.  5 pounds?  I have a toddler who loves to be carried that weighs much more than that…  So I am supposed to take it easy and be very careful with myself.  That’s not the easiest thing for an active mom to do…

But there are none of these things that make me feel like I can’t or shouldn’t donate.  They are, simply, things to be aware of and to guard against.  And so, after the meeting, I signed the paper that indicated my consent to become a donor.

In a week or so, I will find out for sure if everything is a go.  They still need to run samples of my blood through an array of tests which couldn’t be completed in the 3 hours I was at the hospital.  But barring some unforeseen circumstance, I should be cleared to donate.

And so, to close this post, I wanted to share a quote that is on a paperweight I found at the airport on my way home.  It really resonated with me at this point in my life, and I feel like it pretty accurately describes my perspective on life’s journey.

“From what we get we can make a living.  What we give, however, makes a life.” – Arthur Ashe



8 responses to “Making a life

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