Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Scariest Machine You’ll Ever See

IMG_0823Isabella went through her second day of stem cell harvesting today.  The official term for separating the blood for collection is “apheresis”.  The apheresis machine (shown to the left, click to enlarge) is a pretty intimidating machine, with what seems like miles of tubing running all over.  Two tubes are connected to Isabella, one that collects her blood and one that returns her blood.  Her blood goes through this machine and goes into a big centrifuge in the base of the unit, which separates the blood into its various components.  The stem cells are then filtered out to a bag hanging from the unit.  The rest of the blood then travels through a heater (it’s the metal, cylindrical thing in the upper left of the unit) where the blood is warmed to normal body temperature before going back in.  I didn’t want to take a picture with this thing hooked up to Isabella, but needless to say, we were both amazed and nervous at the same time watching all this.

Depending on how many stem cells they were able to collect, we expect to do this for another two or three days, which would delay Cycle 3 of chemo for a couple days.  For the last couple weeks, we’ve been taking placebo pills with Isabella and she’s been doing great.  At first, we started with Nerd candy, then Tic Tacs, then Mike and Ike’s and now we’re  at regular capsules.  We want to make the pill taking as routine as possible so that when the time comes to take the real things, she’ll be very comfortable.

Isabella also had an unrelated scare earlier in the day before the harvesting.  Her platelet count was a little low, so they decided transfuse her with some platelets.  Almost immediately, Isabella started feeling itchy, and hives started developing all over her body and her ears swelled to “Ross Perot” proportions.  They immediately gave her steroids and benadryl which caused the symptoms to abate and also knocked her out for a little while.  They said it’s not unusual for this to happen from time to time, although this is the first time Isabella had such a reaction to a transfusion.

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