Tuesday, July 03, 2012
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr then you know that Friday I was at the hospital for another blood transfusion. My seventh since December and I have to say it is really getting old.
Don't get me wrong. I am very grateful to have this option open to me. Without the transfusions, who knows if I'd even be alive today. My hematologist doesn't think I would be. He's a not just a good doctor. He's a great doctor, so I believe him. Still, it's not a thought I like to entertain for long.
The transfusions themselves are relatively easy & mostly pain free. I go to the hospital the day before to pre-register and have blood drawn for a type & cross-type. After this many transfusions, I've developed several anti-bodies in my blood. The blood bank has to match those anti-bodies carefully or I could have a serious reaction to the blood. I'm O+, but usually get O- blood because the anti-bodies I have are more common in O- blood.
The next morning I report to hospital registration and someone from the Day Surgery unit comes to get me. That's where I spend the day because getting two units is an all-day endeavor. And lately I visit the Wound Care Clinic first for my ankle wound before going to Day Surgery.
The nurses get me settled, we go over the medications I've taken in the last week, and they take my vital signs. Then the fun really begins because it's time to insert the IV needle. Unfortunately the needle for a blood transfusion is larger because blood is thicker than IV fluid. I won't sugar coat it. This part hurts. They give me a local anesthetic, but that can only do so much. We've discovered in the midst of all this that I have a lot of valves in my veins and that just adds to the pain.
For the most part, once the needle is in & the IV is hooked up to it, the pain goes away. Some locations will ache for a while after. Some will ache the whole time. All of them will bruise pretty badly a few days after the transfusion. One of the hazards of being pale and having a low platelet count.
Once the IV is set, the nurse will go get the first unit of blood. It will be given slowly over three hours. For the first hour, the nurse will take my blood pressure & temperature every 15 minutes to insure they catch an adverse reaction right away. After we're sure there are no reactions, I usually get breakfast and start watching television.
Instead of a hospital bed, they fix me up in a big recliner. And I spend my day watching HGTV and Food Network. They feed me lunch too. The nurses are super sweet and they spoil me. Also, heated blankets FTW!!! Man do I love those because I'm usually cold these days.
After the first unit is done, they unhook me from the IV so they can change all the tubing. I get a shot of Lasix to avoid any fluid collecting and I get up to move around a little. Mostly I just go to the bathroom, rejoicing in being untethered. Then the nurse comes back with the second unit of blood and we start the procedure again. Except for the needle part. That stays put to minimize my discomfort.
When the second unit is done, the nurse begins unhooking everything and removing the needle. Low platelets sometimes makes this a tricky or messy task. At this point, she usually watches a bit of television with me while she puts pressure on the IV site for about 10 minutes. Then I have to hang around for another round of blood pressure and temperature checks. Usually a half hour to an hour.
On a good day I'm out of there around four. On a not so good day it is sometimes after six. Those are really long days. Made longer by the fact that I will wake up several times during the night with very painful leg cramps. The best we can figure it's a combination of sitting in pretty much the same position all day and the sodium and potassium I lose because of the diuretic. I'm prone to leg cramps anyway.
The next day I'm usually pretty tired. It's amazing how worn out you can get from sitting all day long. Usually I'm at work the next day. I've missed so much work this year that I push myself to get back the very next day. This does not make my hematologist happy, but I hate missing work.
This time I had the weekend to recover, but it sure made the weekend seem short. Here's hoping this one lasts for a couple months at least. I'm really tired of doing this whole transfusion song & dance. Anyone care to cut in?