Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Pass the Crimson to me, Jimson"

Those of my generation (or older) might remember the Nervous Norvus "hit", "Transfusion", which I recall having on perhaps a well-worn 45 as a kid, though it may have actually been on an LP collection called "Goofy Greats" that sounds vaguely familiar to me. My  brother may remember more clearly what we had. 

Anyhow, there is a point to all this reminiscing. I'm currently at Abbott Northwestern awaiting a red blood cell
Transfusion. Well, two transfusions, technically. Or one transfusion of two units. 

The reason for all of this is that my hemoglobin (part of red blood cells that function as oxygen transport) has been steadily falling since my chemo treatment with the new drug, Alimta, a couple of weeks ago.

My low Hgb could be a large factor in my shortness of breath over the past few weeks. Even with the supplemental portable oxygen, I'm still functioning as if I live at about 12,000 feet. I did for a number of years live at about 9,000 feet up, and had much, much more energy than I do now. 

Supposedly, the positive effects Of the infusion (more O2, more energy) will be felt just about right away, and may last for a few weeks, potentially. But now we know that in my body the chemo and the Hgb fight against each other. I'm scheduled for chemo next week, and the hope is -- with this transfusion -- that I'll be strong enough to go through with chemo as planned. It also means that I might be able to leave the house and maybe play a few songs at a house concert in a week or two. I'm hopeful that I can reclaim some "normal"-ness, at least for awhile.

Living with this shortness of air is at best annoying, and at worst hugely anxiety-producing for me. The tubing (when home) and the shoulder tank (when going out) are cumbersome and make me very self-conscious. Even the exertion of climbing the 4 steps up from the back door after letting the dog out or in are sometimes too much for me and afterward I collapse on the couch, gasping for air and trying to remember to breathe deeply and slowly. Meanwhile my heart is racing, partly from anxiety that I'll stop breathing, and also because my heart is trying like mad to push the blood around to make up for the oxygen deficiency. 

So I'm looking forward to the end result of the transfusion. The process isn't much different from my chemo infusions, except that the transfusion takes longer, and the blood is refrigerated so I'll be very chilly all day.

Oh, and, while I'm on the general subject: donate blood. It's the right thing to do, and they give you cookies. If you're eligible to donate blood platelets, you could literally be a lifesaver. Platelets are in the shortest supply, nationally, as they only have a shelf life of 7 days. Some cancer patients need blood platelet infusions a few times a week, even. There are some donors who will donate for a dedicated patient (in order into make it easier on their immune systems) and these relationships could go on for years. To be clear, right now I don't need platelets, just red cells. But there are many out there who desperately need your blood. The blood donation center will figure out what blood product you're the best candidate for donating and -- assuming your blood is clean, which they'll test for up front -- they'll take it over and over again. They don't pay for blood (like they sometimes do with plasma) so it truly is a donation. But it makes you feel really good. And not just because you're light-headed from the brief drop in blood volume.

I have donated blood many times in my life, and I feel better about being a blood recipient today knowing that I have also given. 

Want to help? Not sure what to do? Donate blood!


Kevin said...

It was indeed Goofy Greats. Yhis version, I think:

There's some great stuff on there.

Eclector2 said...

Dear Michael, I know how much you want that "normal ness" and how hard you fight to hang on to your dreams. I want that for you too, so badly I could howl and scream, but mostly I just cry. I know how deep the anxiety and fear of not being able to breathe are for you. This is so hard for you and my heart aches.

I hope the transfusion gives you some renewal of energy and freer breathing. Perhaps If you rest as quietly as possible theough the next hard week of chemo and while you are healing from pneumonia that you can equate doing as little as possible as being the best way to fight the battle at least for a few days.
Love, Mom

Laura said...

Good thoughts about donating blood. I have tried now three times and all they seem to do is fish around for a vein, not find one and leave an enormous bruise on each arm. Maybe I need to go directly to the Blood Center. I am always bummed when they can't figure it, relax and feel better!


Cathy Crea said...

I am finally able to donate blood again after 20 years of being deferred. I will set up an appointment right now to donate again and get myself scheduled for regular donations. I'm B+, by the way, if you're looking for a dedicated donor. Even if not, in my head I'll be donating in your honor.

I'm trying to think if my blood might have any superpowers. All I can think of is that I've never ever ever had strep throat, and that my blood probably has a nice supply of chocolate in it. I wonder if the recipient can taste it somehow...

By the way, I could come out and work on your yard this weekend if you want me to make some progress while Rachael & David are out of town.

Thinking relaxed, well-oxygenated thoughts for you,

John Slade said...

I don't remember the song, but big hugs! Armor yourself with righteousness when you go out with your O2. You need it, you got it, that's that. (easy to say...)

The breathing stuff must suck. Being asthmatic breathing stuff is personal. I've actually used my inhaler recently - this is a soupy spring air system.

I had TB a long time ago (more lung shit!) and that was sometimes a blood donor limitation. I guess I really hate needles, that's why I don't donate. Maybe I should think about that...

Cathy Crea said...

Donation achieved. They drew blood to determine whether or not I qualify to donate platelets, too.

Anne-Marie said...

Sending healing thoughts to you. With all the crud in the air out there, staying home as much as possible is probably for the best. We've all had it here. Glad to hear no scary clots. Hugging you really hard from across the city, so I don't bring you yucky germs.

Wendy said...

I am studying the respiratory now and all those fabulous diseases that attack it. There have been several times during lecture that I realized my breathing was short, shallow and ineffective. I was getting panicky - how will I ever remember all these diseases?!? What if I ever get one? How can I ever care for someone short of breath? So, with that recurring panic attack in mind, I have a *sliver*r of an idea of how you must be feeling. Remember to deep breath and cough as often as you can - at a minimum every hour.

Here is to breathing deeply and a successful transfusion. Oh, and I too will donate blood in your honor.

Love, Wendy

Post a Comment