Going Home After Transplant: Challenges from Ridiculous to Real (Part 2)

Check out Part 1 of Ronni's series on life after transplant, Going Home After Transplant: Not a Piece of Cake.

When you go home from the hospital after your stem cell transplant, unexpected challenges are likely to arise, so it’s good to have phone numbers to call.

I was glad I had the 24/7 number for the nurses’ station at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. I told the nurses I was nervous about going out in the world. They said to call any time of day or night.

That time when my dog got skunked

I did this pretty soon after when my Golden retriever got skunked.

I called, in a panic, around 10 p.m. You might think the reason for my panic was a fever or other ailment. In hindsight it seems silly that I was afraid the fumes and oil might make me sick. But at that point you worry about everything.

My dog, Misty, had been in the backyard. When we opened the door, she raced into the kitchen and ran through the house.

The stench was unmistakable. I couldn’t put her back outside, so I closed her in the kitchen and called the 24-hour vet hospital to find out the latest bathing instructions.

It was 2003, and back then, people didn’t look everything up. (I knew about tomato juice, but they recommended hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap, in case you’re wondering.)

A friend offered to come over and bathe her.

When I called the nurses’ station, Vytas, one of the nurses who had taken care of me, picked up. He said that skunk smell would not make me sick. I was relieved.

That time when I fainted

Vytas was at the other end of the line when a more serious incident occurred.

I hadn’t been feeling well, hadn’t been eating much. A head-to-to rash was driving me crazy. One night when I was standing at the bathroom sink brushing my teeth. I got dizzy. My mother had been standing there talking to me. I fainted into her arms.

One of my sons said, “What should I do?”

My mother said to call 911.

An ambulance arrived to take me to the local emergency room.

My blood counts were low. They put me in isolation while a flurry of phone calls ensued between the local ER and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, about 90 miles away. The goal was to get another ambulance to take me to Boston, where my care team was.

I think I remember someone yelling, “She has three platelets!”

Vytas parried the calls from the Boston end.

In Springfield, they had trouble getting an ambulance. Finally it came. My mother rode in front. I talked to a nice paramedic, about running, I think. I was itching all over, but I still had remnants of my sense of humor.

“Don’t I get a siren?” I asked.

No I didn’t. It seemed bad to me, but it wasn’t that kind of emergency.

We got to Boston around 11 p.m., after Vytas’s shift had ended.

He had stayed to wait for me. He wanted to see it through.

A cartoonish image of his face on the board said, “Welcome back, Ronni.”

I needed fluids and probably an antibiotic and electrolytes.

Someone asked if I had been drinking.

My mother said she had seen me carry a water bottle around.

“But was she drinking from it?,” the person asked.

My mother wasn’t sure.

The moral of the story is to remember to drink your water.

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