So, since being discharged after my stem cell transplant, I’ve been readmitted to hospital a few times. Not so much a salmon returning to spawn, more a malingerer returning to whine a lot and watch the clock. The problem is that, post-allograft, you’re a slave to your thermometer. You have to take a temperature four times a day and when it spikes (goes above 37.5 degrees) it means a call to the hospital for instruction, which usually involves charging back at some ungodly hour for an antibiotics blitz and a load of blood tests.
So far, each visit has been an almost embarrassing non-event. The temperature usually returns to normal fairly quickly and none of the blood tests have shown anything interesting. It’s a bit like having a car problem which immediately disappears as soon as you get it anywhere near a mechanic – “honestly mate, it was making this terrible rattling sound this morning”.
To quote Ben Elton from his angry-young-man days, there was a “little bit of politics” involved during one hospital admission. The triage team at Oxford, my first point of contact, sent me (against protocol as it turned out) to accident and emergency at the Royal Berks in Reading, which is my local hospital. What should happen within 100 days of a transplant is readmission to the centre that carried it out. The team at Reading was very professional, but clearly wasn’t that overjoyed with Oxford.
The good news is that since having my Hickman Line removed a couple of weeks ago the temperatures are now behaving themselves, which makes readmission look a lot less likely. One thing that these unscheduled visits did remind me, as if I needed it, that there is always someone worse off than you and yet I marvel at people’s fortitude and humour sometimes. During my visit to the Royal Berks I was on a four bed ward with a couple of older gentleman who were, sadly, nearing the end of their lives and a guy in his early 30’s. The young chap looked as though he was being eaten alive by cancer, had had a leg amputated and a colostomy back and was still undergoing radiotherapy. He had a two year old child and neither he nor his wife had any family close by as they’d met at Reading University and settled in the area. He was chatting about his family situation with one of the nurses and it transpired that he had a twin brother. “Oh” said the nurse, “are you identical?”. He paused and with a twinkle in his eye said, “Well…not any more”. I take my hat off to you sir and wish you all the very best for your treatment and recovery.
As for me, it’s a case of waiting for the new immune system to bed in. The blood counts have held up for the past couple of weeks (albeit I’m neutropenic again – rather irritatingly), which suggests that the new bone marrow is working. I’m still on a bucket load of drugs (medicinal not recreational) and am being seen every Wednesday in Oxford at the Haematology outpatients clinic, but the past few weeks have been pretty uneventful and the consultations blissfully short. Which just leaves me to say thank you to everyone who’s supported Katie and me over the past year – you know who you are; friends, family, colleagues, the medical teams both at Oxford and briefly at RBH (happy to report the Reading team was also excellent) and to wish everybody a happy and healthy 2016.