Bone Marrow Transplant: Testing Complete / by Leslie

This is the second installment of the story of Jerry's Bone Marrow Transplant, which details my father-in-law's life saving bone marrow transplant at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center in Baltimore. Read the previous installment - Part One: Father and Son Prepare for a Bone Marrow Transplant

My husband Chris and his Dad Jerry are back from Baltimore. They were at Johns Hopkins, with Chris's Mom Maddy and sister Gloria, for the final round of testing for the bone marrow transplant. Everything went very well. Chris had an EKG, chest x-ray, 25 vials of blood drawn for various tests, a pint of blood drawn in case he needs it after the procedure and he met with a number of doctors, some of whom will be performing the operation. Jerry also had all those tests done, plus a heart scan, breathing test and bone marrow drawn for testing. 

The doctors were all very thrilled with the results and said that both Chris and Jerry were in great shape for the transplant and their results were better than many patients who were far younger. Jerry told me that the doctor was excited to meet him, since he looked very healthy and young on paper but at 74 years old, he is the oldest patient that they have had. They doctors said that he should do well though, based on the test results and his history over the last year. Chris is also an excellent donor, his blood tests were all perfect, EKG was normal and he is bigger than his Dad, which makes it much easier for the team to get enough marrow for the recipient.

We have gotten a few more details about what to expect, Chris will not be under full anesthesia, so there is not going to be any risk there. He will be getting a local anesthetic and will be in a "twilight zone.” Awake, but mostly unaware of what is going on. His recovery should be easier because of that. There will be four incisions on his lower back, two over each hip. The "harvest" procedure is fairly straight forward and they take just 5% of Chris's bone marrow. I found a video on You Tube that shows a newscaster named Kevin Walsh going through a bone marrow harvest for someone that he doesn't know. It was emotional for me to watch this and it is a bit graphic, so don't watch if you don't like to see needles or blood. But if you don't mind those things, this shows what Chris will be going through.

Maddy had a two-hour meeting about being the caregiver, things she needs to know to care for Jerry after the procedure, ways to minimize his exposure to infection and allergens. I do not know all the details but they will be returning to the hospital every day for the full two months that they are there to check in after the transplant. Some days it may just be a quick appointment if everything is ok, other days they may need to stay for blood transfusions/infusions or other treatments. It is outpatient though, so Jerry returns "home" every night.

Home is going to be a rented apartment at the Ritz Carlton Residences. It is a beautiful new building, with many amenities and it is more affordable and has more room than a hotel. Chris and I will have our own apartment, next door to Maddy and Jerry's, where we will stay with the kids. While I am at the hospital with Chris, our 21-year-old niece Maggie, will be watching the kids at our place. Gloria and her son Jake will also be there, staying in Maddy's and Jerry's second bedroom. The apartment building has an indoor pool, a game room and a movie theater, so there are also plenty of things for us to do without even leaving the complex.

We will all be staying for the week following the procedure, so that Chris can recover and we can spend Easter with the family before we head home. For as difficult as these days are, we are going to try to enjoy this quality time together and hopefully Maddy and Jerry will feel supported and loved while they settle into thier new routine. There is some risk of infection, especially with the kids, but as long as we are careful in our contact with Jerry, no kissing, lots of hand washing and no sick kids, he should be ok.

I should add that for as serious as all this is, Jerry and Chris are still able to keep their spirits up with their jokes and ribbing. It never ends. If you know Jerry, you know that he loves to laugh. He has not stopped. I promise that he is still always able to find the joke, or talk light heartedly about everything that is going on. For Jerry, keeping his humor is his best way of coping with a stressful situation, and Chris is the best person for him to do that with. They keep each other smiling.

Maddy is focusing on the details, figuring out what to pack and take with them for a two month stay away from home, and making sure that their new home is as comfortable, relaxing and as healing as it can be. She is a rock and is pulling Jerry through this as no one else could. Gloria is the cheerleader and researcher. She is making things happen, getting answers and being there for Maddy. She also made hats! Go Team Jerry!

We have all appreciated hearing from everyone who left comments on the previous post, sent emails and called. Thank you all so much for your care and concern, it means so much to know that we have everyone rooting for us.

If you are interested, here is a video that Johns Hopkins made for new patients. It will give you an idea of the top-notch facility we will be in for this treatment. Jerry and Chris are in excellent hands.


Read the next installment - Part Three: Colds and Chemo