Engraftment Day

7 Jun

Day +26. It’s Engraftment Day! The day when my doctors finally consider my donor cells to be successfully growing and making new blood cells in my body. I told you my donor would like me.

We began to see signs of engraftment late last week because my white blood cell counts were on the rise, an indicator that my neutrophils – a type of white blood cell that are vital for fighting infections and growing platelets that control bleeding – would soon follow. Sure enough, they went from undetectable last Friday and jumped to 350 on Saturday. By Sunday they had passed the big 500 marker to 650. (congrats to the 9% of you who voted for June 5! – especially to Julie Seifert, who was the only one to get it right on the calendar in my hospital room!) Yesterday morning I awoke to hear they were at 800 and today they dipped a little to 790, still well above the 500-gets-me-out-of-here mark.

After 36 days straight in the hospital, my family and I are so grateful we’ve met what Be The Match calls a “milestone.” Now my task is to prove I can get out of the hospital – that I can get off the IV pole and ingest all the pills that normally hang in IV bags, drink enough water on my own, and eat enough calories, a new quandary for my usual first-in-the buffet-line self. But with the help of those sweet little Ensure shakes you might see mocked on an SNL commercial or something, I’m trying.

I’m sorry I haven’t been the best communicator of this increasingly good news over the past week, but the move up in neutrophils hasn’t been reflected in how I’m feeling. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty, but mainly I’ve experienced some headstrong engraftment syndrome, where your bones ache and reel, you can barely peel yourself out of bed, and an assortment of other fun symptoms. I also had an unnerving reaction to a new drug on Sunday, which kept me laid up for a good day or two.

As of today, my mom has taken the lead in landing us a room at the Gift of Life Transplant House. Dr. Arndt is vehemently trying to get me out of here by Thursday. (Thursday!) “You’re past the launching pad, it’s almost blastoff,” she said this morning.

So what’s next at the Transplant House? Until Day +100, I’ll be recruiting committed caregivers (mostly my parents and close family) to stay with me while doing all sorts of the daily cares I would be doing in the hospital, plus three-times-weekly blood work and appointments at Mayo Clinic, and what I suspect will be several visits to the Pediatric Infusion Therapy Center (PITC) for random orders of fluids, blood transfusions, medications, etc.

There are definitely still many obstacles ahead – viruses to watch out for, graft-versus-host symptoms, strength to rebuild and more types of cells to grow. And I will certainly not be back to normal – I still have to abide by the “no fresh fruits or vegetables rule” and have acquired the “no going in large, public spaces” (like a restaurant) rule, the “wear a mask if you’re around a group of people”, and the “no going outside 30 minutes of Rochester” rule – but I’ll be losing so many rules, most important of all, “stay in your hospital room.”

Thank you for your consistent support even during my hiatus. Oh, and my mother will never be writing a blog entry again. Lesson learned.

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36 Responses to “Engraftment Day”

  1. Connie June 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    What wonderful news!! So happy for you Jenna!

  2. Ashlee Suker June 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    Such great news Jenna! I’m so excited for you 🙂 Must mean that everyones thoughts and prayers are being put to work. Hope you can make it out of that hospital soon. Hopefully once things are a little better we can make a visit.

  3. JFart June 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    Woot, woot!!!!! Having a party right now (even though I’m the only one home)!!!!!! So glad to hear this!!

  4. Heather Cable June 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Awesome. Truly awesome. So great to hear, Jenna. Thinking about you as you prep for the big transition to Gift of Life!

  5. Linda Hornick June 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Jenna, that is great news! I hope you can get out of the hospital on Thursday! I will be praying it happens for you on Thursday! I am glad you will be able to have a little more freedom once you are at the Gift of Life Transplant house. Hi to your Mom! Tell her we all miss her at Family Services. Take care!

  6. Ted & Marcia Kunze June 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Jenna,
    We were very happy to read your post that you have passed this big milestone. Hurray!
    It will be a wonderful step to leave your hospital room and transition to the Transplant House.
    May that happen as planned later this week and all go smoothly for you! You and your family continue in olur prayers.

  7. Ted & Marcia Kunze June 7, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Jenna,
    We were so happy to read the news that you have reached this big milestone. Hurray!!!
    It will be wonderful for you to leave the hospital room and transition to the Transplant House. Hope that will happen later this week as planned and may all go smoothly. You and your family continue in our prayers!

  8. Ted & Marcia Kunze June 7, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Jenna,
    Karen would laugh at me! I didn’t think the first time got posted….hence the two identical messages 🙂

    Marcia Kunze

  9. Alaina Lynch June 7, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    So great to hear this news!! I really hope your body starts to feel it soon, too 🙂 I will be thinking of you on Thursday for sure !!

  10. Greg Kaiser June 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Great News!!! Very happy for you!!!

  11. Dick Embacher June 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Way to go Jenna. I believe in you and I believe in your recovery. You are an incredible and strong woman.

  12. Jessica Jensen June 7, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    That is such great news Jenna!!!

  13. Kristen Kiese June 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Jenna, I wrote the other day, but not sure if your mom told you. I’m Kathy Grausam’s oldest daughter. Not only am I nurse but also livery close to the hospital. I’d love to have you guys over sometime. Also, I’d be happy to help with appts or whatever you or your mom need. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, I sent you a friend request on FB. So happy you are getting better and stronger!!
    Krissy

  14. Laura Schwarz June 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    I’m so glad to hear this! Stay strong! I’m thinking of you!

  15. Roshan June 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    So happy to hear the good news. All the best to you, Jenna. Way to go!

    Roshan

  16. Sarah Dailey June 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Hi Jenna!
    I work at Be the Match and have been following your blog since transplant day! I’m so glad everything is going so well!!! You inspire me to work harder to recruit more donors and help save more lives. I hope everything continues to go well. You are amazing!

  17. Lori Thom June 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Hi Jenna, so glad things are going well even though you feel horrible. A 30 mile radius of Rochester must seem like unlimited freedom at this point!!!

  18. Karen Torseth June 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Yea Jenna! So great to hear the good news! I am sure it will great to see your new pad at the transplant house, anything to get away from the hospital!! Enjoy your new found freedom, you deserve it!! We will continue praying for your quick recovery.

    Doug & Karen Torseth

  19. Sanyu Janardan June 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    The title of this post made my day! You are such an inspiration 🙂

  20. Jenna Bergendahl June 8, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Hooray!! I’m so glad…! I’m thinking about you often and am super excited to hear the great news.

  21. Lucia June 8, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    Fabulous news, Jenna! We’re so very happy to hear that you are heading on to Gift of Life.

  22. Rose Forst June 8, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Hey Jenna,

    Way to go, keep those numbers climbing. Thinking of you often,

  23. Vicki June 8, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    Freedom! Well limited freedom but at least some relief from your current situation is very near. I enjoyed your mom’s blog. Maybe she should start one of her own. God bless and as always BIG prayers heading your way

  24. Sue Dommeyer June 8, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Congrats, Jenna! Put Jay and I in your recruitment plans.

    Oh, and I thought Lisa did a fine job with the blog…

  25. Catherine June 8, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Yea! It is so wonderful to read your blog. Your mom did a wonderful job but, I just missed your sense of humor & style of writing. I am sending lots of prayers your way. Stay Strong!

    God Bless,
    Catherine

  26. Merilee Jahnke June 8, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    So excited to hear the great news!

  27. Julie June 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Jenna, It’s great to hear the good news. I am happy for you. What a fighter. Please do keep in mind that I would be happy to come and stay at the house with you.

  28. Sara Martin June 8, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    Hey lady — I was so excited to read this news! Hope everything is still on track to get you into the Transplant House this week. What a great milestone! And no need to apologize for your blogging break — you are working hard to grow a new immune system, after all. Then again, you always are overachieving all over the place, so I’m not surprised…

  29. Margeaux G June 8, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    Jenna! We are so happy that you’re ready for take off! Make sure Jimmy passes on my big hug to you (I want to encourage some graft-loves-host time.)

  30. Brittany Haala June 9, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    So happy to hear the GREAT news!! Will be praying for you this week!!

  31. Vanessa Beranek June 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    WOOT WOOT!!! So happy to hear the good news Jenna!!! Keeping you in our prayers to continue to get stronger & feel better again 🙂

  32. Brittany Rask June 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    YAY Jenna!!! So pumped for you! Glad those neutrophils decided to quit hiding! I’ll anticipate more good news to come!

  33. Angie June 11, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    Yay, Jenna – such good news!

  34. Chris Olson June 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    So glad to hear your good news!

  35. Kathy Ludewig June 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    Hi Jenna and Lisa,

    We are keeping up on your blog. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers everyday.

    Don and Kathy Ludewig

  36. Denise June 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Hey Jenna-

    It appears the Ludewig family is thinking of you at the same time! I have read your latest blog and I am sorry to hear you are not feeling the best. However, it sounds like your mighty white blood cells are working hard! A change in scenery is always nice too. If your family needs a caregiver break, don’t hesitate to call us!
    You are in our thoughts and prayers daily…………take care.

    Denise Ludewig

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