My parents and I flew into Houston the day before collection day. I set my alarm for 5:30 AM; we had to check in at 6:00 AM. The hotel is connected to the outpatient surgery building so the walk wasn’t even 5 minutes. The alarm went off and after much rolling around, Dad decided he would stay behind and sleep. But then I decided they could go on without me! Mom had been up since 5:15 or so. After much discussion, we all left the hotel room at 5:56 and arrived at check in at 6:02. The room was completely empty except for 2 other people.
We waited there for about 5-10 minutes; I had to sign standard paperwork. The nurse came to get us and we all went back to room 28 to get me prepped! I had to pee in a cup, wipe myself down with those antibacterial paper towel things, and put on the dreaded gown. But let me tell you about this gown. It was a little bit thicker than the normal ones, but it had these holes. We had no clue what the holes were for. But, my dad being my dad, found this heater behind my bed. Bair Hugger/Bair Paws. The Hugger had a hose and a dial (cold/warm), you stick the hose into the holes of the Paws. It was literally the best thing ever. I cranked up the heat and sweated the entire time!
(It should be noted that there are 2 holes in the gown, and dad put it in the top one, but it works better if you put it in the bottom one by your hip!)
About 6:30, a nurse came in to draw some blood and put in the IV. She brought what seemed like 20 things: syringes, empty vials, needles, shots, you name it, she had it! Dad takes a look and says, “That’s a lot of stuff!” She opens it all on my bed, so naturally I look at it, which I definitely should NOT have done. I told her I pass out and asked for an ice pack, but the best we could do was a cold washcloth!
She starts with the prick and in goes the IV. It hurt. And then she had to take some blood, but I already know I’m about to pass out. Mom was on the side of the IV, so I was looking at Dad… and he’s watching her. I ask “why are you watching?” and he responds, “I want to go ahead and pass out with you!”
So that was pretty awful. I had to keep rewetting the washcloth, but I did survive. We waited for at least 45 minutes for all the nurses to come in and then the doctor. I got incredibly anxious and sick to my stomach. I was just ready for this procedure to get going. I can’t remember how many nurses came in, but I think about 3. Everyone was incredibly nice. One nurse brought me my gift for being a donor: a pin, a blanket, and a note, which I will forever treasure. I’m currently wrapped up in my blanket!
The last person to come in was my absolute favorite: the anesthesiologist!!! I was so happy to see her! She talked to us and snuck something in my IV. I felt it almost immediately and asked her “did you put something in my IV?” and she smiled and nodded. I needed whatever she put in about an hour ago.
At 8:15, I was wheeled back to get the procedure done. I only remember being incredibly happy and taking about 3 deep breaths when they put the mask on me. I know that I went to sleep on the same bed I was on since 6 AM, and then they flipped me over onto my stomach (I think on a different bed).
At 9:15, the procedure was complete and the doctors went to the waiting room to tell my parents how the procedure went. The doctors said I did great; they were pleased with how much bone marrow they retrieved (1.1 liters), and once I received all my fluids, ate, and used the restroom, I would be released!
At 9:40, I woke up and remember saying “I’m already done?!” There were two gentlemen across the way that I couldn’t see so I thought I needed my glasses. The nurse called for my mom to bring my glasses back. I also demanded my phone and took a couple of selfies, that I didn’t remember taking. I laughed for at least 20 minutes once I saw them later that day.
At 10:50, I went to the recovery room. My parents were able to come back and entertain me; my dad is pretty good entertainment. Apparently the first thing I said to them was “I woke up!” I think they asked me if I was sore and how I was feeling. I honestly didn’t really feel much pain, but I could tell that they had done something to my hips/back area. I do remember that my right side hurt more than my left side.
At 11:13, I took my first pain killer.
At 11:40, I completed all 4 liters of fluid through my IV. I believe I peed about 5x before we got out of there.
At 11:50, I was officially released.
At 1:10, the wheelchair FINALLY came. When he wheeled me out, remember the waiting room that was practically empty at 6:00 AM was now packed! As we were going through the hospital it was alarming at how many people were waiting. The young man wheeled me all the way to the hotel, but couldn’t go any further than the end of the hospital. I walked about 50 feet to the hotel elevators and still was laughing. Some security guy from the hotel rode the elevator with us for a few floors and asked if I was ok. I told him I had been next door.
I am supposed to be supervised for the next 24 hours by a responsible adult, rest for the next 24 hours, keep my bandage on for the next 24 hours, and eat lots of high iron foods. My dad took a nap because “this surgery stuff “is hard on him. He snored like something fierce and I laughed for 10 minutes straight for no reason!
I hung out at the hotel for the rest of the day, ate Chipotle and watched NASCAR. I took pain pills every 4ish hours and we ate dinner in the hotel restaurant.
I don’t really know what kind of pain I expected, but I feel so much better than I expected. I can tell they did something to my hip, but I can walk, sit, and lay down with no problem.
Before falling asleep for the night, we talked about the woman (a daughter, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a friend) who is in need of my bone marrow. We pray that we have given her and her family a little bit of hope and since I’m greedy, I pray she enjoys several years of life after she receives my bone marrow.
I think there are several misconceptions with the process. And I’m sure everyone is different, but the pain I experienced was very minimal. I encourage you to get swabbed if you are even considering it. I was pretty terrified of the procedure, but for me that chance of hope I was able to bring someone was way worth any pain I experienced. Join the Registry!