Draining

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To-Go container for Vampires

I have too much iron in my blood as the result of 200 some odd blood transfusions.  When you get a transfusion of Red Blood Cells, the cells eventually die, but the iron they contained remains.  You get rid of enough iron naturally to keep the balance if you’re making and maintaining your own blood, but getting daily transfusions causes a build up you just can’t naturally clear.  Women have a way of clearing excess iron, but, being not a woman, & being naturally reluctant to pretend I’m some sort of expert on women’s bodies the way Congress does, I won’t expand on that any further.

At any rate, the amount of iron I have swimming (yes, iron literally swims, like sea lions, in a Sea Park) around in my blood stream (stream, for swimming) is toxic to some of my organs.  There are chelating agents (drugs) I could take to help clear some of that iron (piss it out) but due to my renal damage, it would not be a good idea as they can actually make the damage worse.  Also, since I have already lost total hearing in my left ear, I need to avoid the chelating route as those agents can also be audio toxic.

So while waiting for my blood counts to recover and stabilize I have been iron man, without the suit that makes it worthwhile.  Finally, a week ago, I had my first bit of blood drained off me, in another way to reduce the iron content (the iron rich blood goes bye-bye, to be replaced by normal iron new blood.)  My hematocrit has been holding steady for enough weeks that my oncologist recommended we start.

And even though they took very little blood, only enough to drop my Hematocrit 3 points and keep it in the normal range, I’ve been feeling, well…drained.

Yesterday, I went in for an IVIG infusion.  This is basically goo full of antibodies to help bolster my immune system that can’t produce its own antibodies because it is being an asshole and still hasn’t started producing B cells.  Before my infusion, I had labs to check my blood counts and also to have an IV placed for the infusion.

And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, despite feeling so drained, my hematocrit had already recovered two of the points I lost when they drained the blood from me last week.  You’d think this was great news, and, about that, you’d be right.

While in the lab, attempting to get my IV placed, the phlebotomist (smiley person who enjoys sticking you with needless) was having difficulties finding a vein.  My appointment was early (for me), I hadn’t yet had a lot of water, I slept poorly last night, & like me, my veins just didn’t feel like waking up.  Apparently, I also have a lot of valves wherever a vein does show, and you can’t put an IV through a valve.  Anyway, eventually the smiley pokey person settled on a spot they saw fit to attempt to inset the needle guided plastic vein catheter-and immediately hit a valve.  So the phlebotomist (if that IS her real name) pulled the IV back from the valve until it was just in.  She got the two vials of blood for my CBC (complete blood count) & my renal function and liver enzymes (renal function and liver enzymes) test.  She then flushed the precariously placed IV with 10cc of saline (STAT!) and blew out the vein.  This means as she was pushing the saline into the vein, the pressure moved the IV out of the vein and just somewhere under my skin.  So, the blood from my vein rushed out to join the saline ball under my skin in order to maximize the pain and discolor the walnut sized lump.  Hooray!  The smiley pokey phlebotomist was less smiley as she told me that we could not use that IV now (Gee, ya think?) and would have to try to place one in the other arm.  So after having two heat packs placed on my other arm, then wrapped in a warm blanket, another smiley pokey phlebotomist came over to attempt IV part 2, the revenge.  And so after telling me how bad my veins sucked, she found one that would accept her instrument into my waiting vessel.

And we went up to the infusion floor for my IVIG infusion.  Before they started, we checked to see if my labs came back, and I felt drained once again.  While my hematocrit did recover nicely (I already told you that, pay attention!), my white count dropped even lower and I am only .05 on my neutrophils away from being neutropenic.  Something is stressing my marrow again, and I’m getting tired of it.  I know I will continue to have problems, I know there are bumps in the road, but I haven’t been too worried about being neutropenic for a while.  So then the anxiety, & flashbacks kick in.  I’m consumed with worry that the cancer has returned, or that my marrow cells are dying, or something terrible is happening.  In actuality, this has happened a few times, & usually results in one or two Neupogen shots and a rebound.  The holding and recovery of the other counts should be comforting, but rational thinking does not rule.  My anxiety and PTSD take over, and I freak out until I’m drained.

So, before the infusion they must give me Benadryl to make sure I don’t have a reaction to the goo they are going to pump into me over the next 3 hours.  Benadryl, is diphenhydramine, the sleep-aid in any PM pain reliever you can buy over the counter.  So with the Benadryl, the very small amount of energy I have remaining drains away.  But I’m on a bed, I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’ll just take advantage and sleep for the next 3 hours, right?  No, they need to check vitals every 30 minutes, so no sleep for me.  And my hopes for feeling a little less drained just drained away.

I apologize for this post.  I bet it was pretty draining to read.  It was draining to write, but I wanted to do it anyway, because I don’t want my intention to post everyday to just go down the drain.

This post was brought to you by Drain Cleaner Pro.

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Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

2 thoughts on “Draining”

  1. Thank you for your like on my post and for following my blog. I am impressed how you manage to write about this draining day with such humor. In some parts of this “heavy” post you made me smile. It wasn’t easy since I could imaging you i the situation and that wasn’t fun at all. Thank you for sharing your story.
    /Charlotte

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