8 Nov 07

An Update from Karen McLellan

        This is a brief update on Michael's condition. You'll no doubt be hearing from him directly, hopefully soon, and much of this may be repeated -- more eloquently! -- but I know many of you are very anxious to know what's up:

        The headline is that Michael's doing fine. He's been in hospital since Mon, 10/29, where he received chemotherapy round the clock for five days. He received the transplant of Devora's stem cells this past Tues, 11/6. They were able to harvest from Devora plenty of healthy stem cells, enough for the transplant, and then some to freeze in case he needs more later. The transplant coordinator told D. that she was the best donor they'd ever had. Devora and Jared and Lorca were there to celebrate the occasion, a simple 20-minute addition of her stem cells into his body. A small act that means Everything!

        He's had very little in the way of side-effects so far. They now have amazing drugs to control the nausea of chemotherapy, so the first week was pretty much a breeze. A few days ago he began to feel a systemic malaise, and yesterday he experienced the first of the mouth sores which are an expected reaction to the chemo. They assure us he'll lose his hair but probably not for several more weeks, so he's still sporting his "aging-pixie cut" as he calls it, which some of us think looks just fine on him. There are many more expected side-effects yet to come, and the extent and intensity of them is completely unknown. So ... he's just taking the ride. With a lot of grace. A whole lot of grace.

        His white-cell counts are bottoming out as expected, so he’ll be in protective isolation, in a room with positive air-flow and HEPA filtration, and only family visitors, until his counts come up enough for safety, which may take a month or more. His room is quite comfortable, with enough space for elaborate computer equipment, including his favorite computer chair, good speakers, and a huge screen on which we are watching The Sopranos on the nights when I stay over. Family is taking turns visiting, which I think is both welcomely distracting, and sometimes tiring, so we're still working out the timing. We're all eager to help, but the truth is the only help he really, really needs is with his cranky computer, and we aren't much good for that. He is trying so hard to work on his website, and the computer daunts him at every turn. Grrr!!!

        I have never seen a group of doctors and nurses who were more universally helpful, smart, concerned, warm and welcoming, and immediately there when needed. It's comforting to know he's in such good, safe hands.

        You can write to me at karenmclellan@hotmail.com if you need to know more, or need to send anything to Michael. This is the best way to reach him for now.

        I sometimes get to see his reaction when he gets messages that folks are pulling for him, praying for him, loving him ... and it would make you all glad to know how it brightens him. Thanks so much for all your support. It really, really means a lot to him. As for the practical help so many of you have offered, I suspect we'll very much be able to use it when he is out of the hospital.

On another practical front:

        Here's something that many of you can do, which would be great! And so important. If you are able, you can give blood, and/or join the national blood stem cell donation registry. To donate blood:

        1. Wherever you are, just go to your local blood bank and donate. He's using and will be for some time, a whole lot of blood out of the nation's supply, so putting some back in is a wonderful way to help him.

        2. To give platelets (or whole blood) directly to Michael:

        One must go directly to the UCSF BLood Center on Parnassus in SF. The phone number is: 415-353-1809. FOLKS OF ANY BLOOD TYPE CAN DONATE PLATELETS DIRECTLY TO MICHAEL. If your blood is 0-negative, you can also donate whole blood directly to him. (Interesting: His blood type has been A-neg. but sometime during the first few weeks after the transplant his blood type will change to Devora's, which is A-pos. 0-neg. of course is a universal donor.)

        But whatever your type, the routine is that you go there and initially give a pint of whole blood, so they can type you and check for disease, etc. If you're not Michael's type that blood will be donated into the general supply. Then, after 3 days you can return to donate platelets directly to Michael. You can donate platelets every four or five days afterwards, if you wish. You don't need an appt. for the initial donation, but it is wise to have one for the platelet donation.

        3. Becoming a blood stem cell donor would also be a wonderful thing to do on Michael's behalf. (If you're like me, you've meant to for years, but never quite got around to it.) He didn't need the registry as it turned out, but he sure might have, and it's in times like this, through people's friends, that they add to the registry list, a thing which any of us might of course one day need.

        I'm told that one contacts the National Bone Marrow Registry. Even though one no longer needs to go through the painful process of having a bone marrow sample taken -- they now just take a sample of your blood for typing -- I'm told that it is still all run through the National Bone Marrow Registry. Just be sure to tell them you want to join the blood stem cell registry. (I've heard that they won't take bone marrow from folks over 60, but they will I'm told take our blood stem cells.)

        Needless to say, any of these donations are deeply, deeply appreciated.


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