Deb and I spent Wednesday and Thursday at Stanford Cancer Center for pre-admission appointments. Deb and Andy had been here several times already, but this was my first visit, and my first opportunity to meet Deb’s bone marrow transplant doctor, Dr. Robert Lowsky. He is a strong yet gentle man. He is clear that the transplant process will be difficult with some tough side effects to deal with. However he is confident that with the experienced and competent medical staff at Stanford, coupled with Deb’s positive attitude and good physical health, she will get through it. And we are confident too, and putting our trust in Dr. Lowsky and the Stanford medical team.
Stanford is an impressive facility … and I only saw the Clinic, not the hospital. There is a huge beautiful lobby with a grand piano and music to sit and listen to while waiting for your loved one. The piano player was a young man who had been a Stanford Hospital patient, and revisited his piano playing while recovering. Stanford heard him play and liked him so much that they hired him! There is a café and a nice seating area outside. While Deb and I were sitting outside at one of the tables, we heard a helicopter approaching, very loud and coming close to us. We had not known that there is a helipad on the roof of the hospital, and this was a medical helicopter bringing someone to Stanford. The Life Flight helicopters at Stanford complete 600 to 700 flights a year, handling 911 calls and inter-facility transports (moving a patient from one hospital to another).
On Wednesday, Deb had a chest x-ray and had blood drawn, so Stanford has a good baseline for changes that will occur during treatment. We met with Dr. Lowsky and discussed the procedure, and then met with a nurse coordinator who went over the admission process and other specifics. Deb also spoke with a dietitian and a chef. Deb is vegan and gluten free, which can prove challenging, but Stanford seems to be well-prepared to accommodate Deb’s nutrition needs.
Deb will have a central catheter, which is a long, thin flexible tube inserted through the chest and into a large vein by the heart. This is used to administer chemo and other treatments including the donor stem cells, blood transfusions and IV medications, directly into the bloodstream. As Deb’s caregiver, I am responsible for changing the dressing on her catheter and keeping the lines flushed after she is released from the hospital. On Thursday, I was required to attend a catheter training class. This was a hands-on class, and we went through the entire process with a catheter that was inserted into a ‘cardboard chest.’ There are two ports which need to be kept clean and flushed, and the skin in the area that surrounds the catheter must be kept clean and infection free. It was all a bit daunting to me, but after the training I feel more confident about it. Click here if you’d like to read more about the catheter.
We will be leaving for Stanford on Sunday afternoon, and staying overnight two nights in a hotel. Deb will have her catheter inserted early Monday morning as an outpatient, and will be admitted to the hospital on Tuesday. We’ve been preparing for this for months, and now we are ready!