My guess is that that’s doctor-speak for “we’re going to continue to administer these same antibiotics (Vancomycin and Cefepime) to you” – that’s what the Infectious Disease doctor said on his way out the door, after telling us that the more recent blood cultures have been negative for the past two days. That means that the infections in her blood have been cleared out. Her initial blood cultures, from right after her transplant, showed an initial MRSA infection; that the more recent cultures – those taken over the past two days – are negative, which means that the antibiotics have done their job.
Beth slept well most of the night, although she’s continuing to have symptoms – vomiting, body aches, and a low-grade fever (100.8). On the blood numbers front, Beth’s LDH (“the disease process”) has fallen to 232 on the most recent lab results – 212 is the high normal number for that , though we’ve been told that her old marrow will continue to die (and I would think, to be present in the blood for some time), contributing to that number not being quite normal. (And her white blood count – where the normal is 5.5-11, was 0.03 this morning).
Beth was up throwing up last night (so I hear – I slept through it), and up again around 4 am throwing up again. It seems as if this is one of the delayed effects of the Busulfan, which are supposed to occur some 7-10 days after the first instance of it. (We are now on day eight). Aside from that, they are continuing to give her a fairly steady diet of the antibiotics Vancomycin and Cefepime. Otherwise, she slept quite a bit, and quite soundly last night.
I’ve been putting up a lot of short posts (I’ve primarily been using my old iPhone), and now I’ll just summarize the events of the past couple of days. There are photos throughout the posts that appear down below.
Beth received her transplant, from 9:45-10:30 on Wednesday evening, December 14th. She received a very high number of stem cells (the range is 4 million to 8 million cells per Kg of body weight) — she had a young, strong donor, and she got the 8 million.
After the infusion of the new stem cells, she had a somewhat violent reaction, which lasted most of the night and the next day. Her fever went up to 103. Everyone’s initial response (all the medical folks) was that she was having an infection, and that is an appropriate place to look. Beth’s response was not common, but it happens. She seems to have settled down from that. They are continuing to give her two different antibiotics, Vancomycin, for staph infections, and Cefepime, which is good for pneumonia.
The next challenge will be that the effects of the chemotherapy (and I’m guessing they mean the Busulfan) really kick in on days 7-10. So we should be entering that phase now.
The purpose of the chemo was to destroy Beth’s existing bone marrow. This doesn’t happen all at once, but it happens over these 7-10 days. One of the doctors said that the existing marrow, while not yet “destroyed”, has been affected by the chemo and is not able to reproduce itself. And that’s where the new cells came in.
The new cells will begin to grow into new bone marrow. In the next couple of weeks, doctors will be looking for signs of engraftment, which occur probably during days 7-10 after the transplant. (These 7-10 days are different from the days 7-10 of chemo.)
30 days down the road, they will do another bone marrow biopsy and Chimerism testing to make certain that existing bone marrow is 100% donor and 0% Beth. If it’s something other than that, it would be a bad sign.
So we are not yet out of the woods. There is a 35% chance of relapse. But we know, too, that during the conditioning phase and afterward (by tweaking the response to the graft-vs-host effect – the effect by which the new tissues perceive Beth’s old marrow as enemy and continue to destroy it), the hope is that we achieve that 100% cure. But it’ll be a year or two before we know that.
Beth is finally sleeping peacefully. She had a somewhat violent reaction to the infusion of cells. But they haven’t ruled pout an infection. She is getting two strong antibiotics, vancomycin and cefepime. Plus the potassium solution. I told her just a bit ago, “you may feel terrible, but you don’t have leukemia anymore”. If there is no relapse, that is a true statement. We thank the Lord for gracing doctors to discover how to make all of this work.