George’s Journal

It was been two weeks since my last post. The delay was primarily due to a lack of personal energy, and my determined focus on my recuperation from my Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant (received new cells from unmatched donor).  There is a lot catch you up on, so let’s get at it. On Thursday, May 6th, I received my donor’s stem cells at the City of Hope near Pasadena.

The previous afternoon, I was very gratified to hear,

“EXCUSE ME, MR. GHINDIA YOUR STEM CELLS HAVE ARRIVED.”

My new stem cell package was delivered via private hospital jet to LAX. The courier responsible for the delivery, hand delivered the goods the evening of the 5th.   In allogeneic BMTs the bone marrow are first of all treated to remove “T-cells” to reduce the risk of  graft-versus-host disease.  There was also an additional testing regarding the number stem cells to ensure there were enough for my specific case. The stem cells then were transferred directly to my room for infusion. I was delighted to hear about the safe arrival and successful (further) testing of my stem cells, Saturday evening!

Certainly, I did not mind at all being awoken at midnight for stem cell transplant preparation. The new stem cells were infused into me intravenously in much the same way that any blood product is given. The transplant is not a surgical procedure. It took place in my room, not an operating room.  In my case, the infusion took place between 12:30-2:30 am, Thursday, May 6th, my new, “second birthday.”  I was semi-conscious the entire time, dozing in and out of sleep. Patients are checked frequently for signs of fever, chills, hives and chest pains while the bone marrow is being infused. When the transplant was completed, the days and weeks of waiting began.

COUPLE ROUGH PATCHES

I have experienced a couple tough challenges since being admitted at COH, April 27th. For example, a week ago I was unable to talk or move my mouth, at all! For two days, I wrote notes to my nurses and doctors regarding my pain and responding to their questions. I have sore shoulders from lying in bed and my mouth hurts from canker sores caused by medication side effects, nausea and fatigue.  This is somewhat typical of people in my situation. Though the extreme nature of the shoulder pain, and swelling of my tongue were noted as extraordinary.

EGRAFTMENT: MAY-JUNE-JULY…..

The two to four weeks immediately following transplant are the most critical. The high-dose chemotherapy given to me during conditioning phase destroyed my bone marrow, crippling my body’s “immune” or defense system.  As I wait for the transplanted bone marrow to migrate to the cavities of the large bones, set up housekeeping or “engraft,” and begin producing normal blood cells, I will be very susceptible to infection and excessive bleeding. Multiple antibiotics and blood transfusions are being administered to me to help prevent and fight infection. Transfusions of platelets will be given to prevent bleeding.  Allogeneic  patients (like me) will receive additional medications to prevent and control graft-versus-host disease.

PRECAUTIONARY STEPS & SUMMARY OF WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR…

Extraordinary precautions are being taken to minimize my exposure to viruses and bacteria. Visitors and hospital personnel wash their hands with antiseptic soap and wear protective gowns, gloves and/or masks while in the patient’s room. When leaving the room, I wear a mask and gloves as a barrier against bacteria and virus, and as a reminder to others that I’m susceptible to infection. Blood samples are taken daily to determine whether or not engraftment has occurred (yes, it has occurred!) and to monitor organ function.

When the transplanted bone marrow engrafts and begins producing normal blood cells, I will gradually be taken off the antibiotics, and blood and platelet transfusions will generally no longer be required.  Once the bone marrow is producing a sufficient number of healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, I will be discharged from the hospital, provided no other complications have developed. BMT patients typically spend four to eight weeks in the hospital. At the time of this writing, I have spent 27 days at City of Hope. One day at a time….

DR. ROBERT CHEN:  PREPARE FOR GREEN LIGHT

I’m getting through all this productively. In fact, Dr. Robert Chen, my primary physician, is very encouraged about my results-to-date.  Now the key is for my new stem cells to continue engrafting into my bone cavities and produce new bone marrow, red and white blood cells, and platelets over the next few weeks.

From May 9th through May 12th my White Blood Count was 0.1 over a four day period; essentially ZERO.  However, Since May 12th, my White Blood Count is up to 2.1.  This indicates that the new stem cells have started to produce! The minimum acceptance point for a healthy person is “4.0.”  I have a ways to go, but the encouraging aspect of this is I’m growing WBCs (fight off infections) with my new stem cells/bone marrow.

Dr. Chen spoke with me yesterday about the possibility of being discharged next Saturday. This is a very encouraging sign for me.  My belief behind an early successful engraftment  is our good Lord has been guiding me through the BMT protocol.  My/our prayers are being answered, “Lord please increase my strength, increase my faith, and renew my life, free of cancer!”  May is the month for spring and new life. I could not pick a better month to, “renew my life free of cancer.” Yes, indeed, May 6th is my new second birthday!

I have had some special visitors in the last couple weeks including: Sunday, May 16th, my darling daughter Eva in her lovely first communion dress, along with my beautiful wife Cheryl and daughter Jacquelyne, parent’s John and Sue Ghindia (from Detroit area), sister Janet (from Denver area) and brother John (Detroit area).  We took many photos to help Eva celebrate her first holy communion that was held later that day at our family’s church, St. Thomas More, in Irvine.  Some pictures of this wonderful event have been uploaded by my brother on the site (click on the “Photos” link at the top of the page).  Other dear  friends that have stopped by are: Tim, Kelly and Alex Blett, Dave Rosenburg and his colleague, Chris Singleton, Chris Copps, Jason McVeigh, Bob Mooney and Larry Delaney.

PHOTO ALBUM / SLIDE SHOW

Regarding the “Photo Album,” John adds photos to the slide show weekly – there may be one or two you! You can adjust the speed of the slide show, just scroll over the top upper right of current photo to change the speed from 2 seconds to up to 5 seconds between each photo.

My room is on the 6th floor of the City of Hope’s Helford Clinical Research Hospital and has a large window that enables me to see from a distance the City of Los Angles skyline. My room is decorated with family photos, your cards, with Jacquelyne and Eva’s artwork  sprinkled along the walls and doorway. It brightens my days considerably looking at your smiling faces and special artwork!

Many of you have requested the address for the City of Hope:

George W. Ghindia, Room #6123
c/o City of Hope – Helford Clinical Research Hospital
1500 E. Duarte
Duarte, CA 91910-3000

I will be in the hospital through the end of the month.  I love reading your posts in the guestbook, please keep them coming! I apologize for falling behind. My plan is to be caught up with all of you within a week, by replying to your post in the reply area below your message!

Thank you all for your prayers, messages, emails, phone calls and donations. You’re really making a huge difference in our lives!

God bless you and yours,
George

…”With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

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