I tell her …

… well, you’ve got brand new, good, strong, young blood coursing through your veins. And with a white blood cell count over 6.2, it’s got an incredible immune system. And of course, it doesn’t recognize you, and it wants to reject you. That’s what’s at the root of this whole situation now.

White cell count; mucositis, and elevated blood pressure

Beth’s white blood cell count this morning was 2.89; that’s the highest it’s been in months. And that’s the type of thing that’s going to let her fight off any infections that come her way.

The biggest challenge right now is the mucositis. She had gotten Kepivance both before the chemo, and after the transplant, in order to thicken the lining in her mouth, esophagus, and GI tract. I believe this was to prevent mouth sores, which are caused by the chemo. However, she’s been dealing with this the last few days — the thickened lining “peels off”, and in her case, it hasn’t entirely prevented the mouth sores. So she’s fighting both the sores and this peeling lining. (Though she has, at the insistence of the nurses, continued to try to eat things like jello, cottage cheese, and pudding).

Her blood pressure remains elevated, her legs and feet remain swollen a bit, mild fevers (below 100 F) continue to come and go. And while these things are annoying, they seem to be subsiding as well.

Two miracles this Christmas

Over the last three days, Beth’s white blood cell count has gone from zero, where it had essentially been for the first week after the transplant, to 0.10, to 0.29, to 1.13. What that shows us is that the donor’s tissues have begun the process of engraftment. The first sign of engraftment is the production of white blood cells.

This is wonderful news for us, because since almost immediately after the transplant, she has been fighting a series of infections, which come and go frequently, leading to high fevers (up to 104.8), chills, and severe rigors (shaking). These became extremely painful for her, to the point that they have been giving her morphine for the pain and Demerol for the shaking.

But that she has her own immunity system kicking in means she’s past this phase of the treatment, at least. We still have “graft-vs-host” symptoms (rejection of her own tissues by the new) to look forward to, but for now, this is a minor miracle and a major milestone for us.

What’s more significant is that I’ve had a chance to watch her grow to accept the Gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, to God alone be the glory. My pastor, Matt Koerber, has been a regular visitor to our hospital room, and Beth delights to talk with him, and hear about how Christ’s atoning death and resurrection have forgiven all of her sins, and enabled her to stand before the Throne of Grace – today – clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

She won’t be home for Christmas, and we all will be shuffling ourselves around this weekend. The kids will be coming to the hospital today for a few hours, then we’ll head out to my mom’s house to visit with my brother and sister and all the cousins. At home, we’ve got a huge pile of gifts from my daughter’s elementary school and various other folks we don’t even know. Beth and I will share Christmas in the hospital – maybe some of the older kids will come to visit, but we’ll largely have some good quality time together.

I want to thank all of you who have stood by us this year – with prayers, gifts, friendship, and the many other ways you have all come into our lives. Merry Christmas to you and yours.