Friday, June 11, 2010

NHL: Birthdays

Six months worth of blood transfusions and chemo injections went without too many hitches, regardless of the fact that those six months were winter months with preschoolers and sickness in the house.

We found ourselves approaching April 2003 with good news and bad. Remission is always good news, but it needed a cherry on top - a bone marrow transplant to make all the poison "stick."

April and May were filled with new doctors from Duke Medical University, extensive tests and plans, and a preparatory large dose of chemo. This blast would completely obliterate every cell in his bone marrow, and was the ultimate demise of Mike's hair. Who would have thought that after fourteen years of marriage there was a place on his body I had not yet seen?

Then, Mike was given something to stimulate growth of a brand spanking new crop of baby stem cells, to be promptly harvested and absconded away to a refrigerator somewhere in the bowels of Duke Med. This was a safe, happy place: far, far away from the just-less-than-lethal doses of chemo that was soon to ravage the rest of Mike's body.

Bone Marrow Transplants are rescue missions. The whole point of BMT is to treat the patient with dangerous doses of chemo that would kill him if it weren't for the infusion of stem cells that rush back into his bone marrow from the bloodstream and help him recover faster than the chemo can kill you.

Yeah. It didn't sound very comforting to us either. But the doctors kept reassuring us that almost killing my husband would insure that he would live. So we placed his life in their hands.

Whover seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. ~Luke 17:33



We received a calendar that looked like something from a NASA space shuttle launch, with days numbered beginning with negative numbers counting down to Day 0 (exactly seven years ago today). Day 0 was the day they reinfused Mike's stem cells, God's DNA factories, back into his bloodstream to save his life.

Those negative days were, well, negative. Six days in-patient -- every other day a lethal chemo day, alternating with one recovery day.

The second chemo day was the worst. The infusion time was four hours and this particular poison causes blood pressure to drop. His lowest reading was 80/12. I kept thinking, 12 is not far from none. The nurse was practically straddling Mike in the bed to monitor his blood pressure.

When your blood pressure is that low, you get the chills: violent, bone-shaking chills (the body's way of trying to warm itself). Without much circulation in his body, he was having trouble staying warm, and cold did not begin to describe it. We wrapped him in warmed blankets, but couldn't give him any meds until his BP was respectable again, which meant 45 minutes of exhausting shakes. Demorol finally put him at rest until the vomiting and diarrhea set in. Then the fever of 102.5 kicked in. When I had to leave him that night, he was still burning up and was asking for prayer. When he said, "The spirit is willing; the flesh is weak," it was the understatement of his born life.

Day 0: June 11, 2003: From my email to friends and family:

Mike is feeling miserable, but they're saying that he's doing great. He was kicked out of the hospital two days ago. In the world of transplant, today is Mike's new birthday - the start of whole new life. So now, apparently Mike has been born, born again, and now, once again. Pray for protection from infection and bleeding - which he is susceptible to right now and could be life threatening...and hum Happy Birthday for us. We'll hear you.



Four days later, Mike recounted the day for himself with sobering clarity:

Day 0: Transplant. This was a tough day; I felt weak, but my stem cells were reinfused. Dawn called it a new birthday; my cells had been replanted to start new life. I heard the words of Jesus anew, "Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom." There is no way to see the kingdom,to work for the kingdom, to do the will of the kingdom, unless there is a change - a reinfusion of life from dead works to serve the living God. One must pass from death into life. There was no other way. One cannot come on his own terms because there is nothing good within man. All his spiritual cells are polluted with sin. He cannot on his own merit gain holiness and the glory of God. He must come through the cross, where the blood of the Lamb is able to transfuse him from death to life. Glory to God for Jesus and his blood.


So happy birthday, Mike, three times over. Every moment since that day seven years ago has been a gift. An unspeakable gift.

Leviticus 17:11 ~ For the life of the flesh is in the blood....



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