Saturday, September 3, 2016

Chicago & The HSCT Update

Tomorrow I leave for my HSCT evaluations in Chicago at Northwestern Memorial Hospital! As you know from my last post, an HSCT is a Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (autologous), a procedure that will reboot my immune system by introducing an intense of amount of chemotherapy to wipe out the malfunctioning immune cells derived from my bone marrow. This procedure, while often preformed in cancer patients, or other blood related diseases with minimal mortality rates, pose a higher potential risk to patients with serve organ damage in diseases such as Systemic Sclerosis. For that reason we must go through long evaluations to be sure our already frail bodies can undergo such an overwhelming amount of chemotherapy -- and survive.

The tests, while they assess just about every organ in the body, specifically reveal issues regarding the heart. It has been found that certain malfunctions of the heart lead to about a 99.9 percent chance of dying during a transplant. For this reason patients such as myself must undergo a week of rigorous evaluations before they can be deemed a candidate for the transplant. While these test cannot guarantee survival even if the heart seems healthy, they do give a basic 'road map' for how well you will tolerate the transplant.

For those of you wondering exactly what all this means, I have written up a short excerpt of what procedures will be preformed next week, and why. Each day I will start procedures around 7am that will go well into the late afternoon.

  • Tuesday
    • CT of the lungs to check the status of a patients Pulmonary Fibrosis
    • EKG to check the electric activity of the heart
    • Blood Tests for just about everything
    • MRI of the heart looking for abnormalities such as a D sign
    • A 24 hour urine test to assess kidney function
  • Wednesday 
    • 24 hour Holter monitor to assess electrical activity of the heart
    • Pulmonary Function Test to assess lung function
    • Dobutamine Stress Test to assess how ones heart will prefome under stress
    • Appointment with Dr. Burt the researching physician
    • Appointment with the cardiologist
  • Thursday
    • Right Heart Cath to assess pulmonary pressures
    • Appointments with the gastroenterologist 

Many of these tests are actually pretty invasive, such as the RHC in which a catheter is inserted into your neck and fished down into your heart - while you are awake. Luckily, I know what to expect with every test besides the Dobutamine Stress Echo, because I have had them all before of the course of the last few years. Needless to say however, these tests will take a lot out of an individual. At the end of the week, when all the tests have been reviewed, and the physicians have consulted, the patient will typically receive the word whether they are a candidate or not. From that point, if you are deemed a candidate, all you can do is anxiously await insurance approval, or fundraiser the money to begin your transplant! I will do my best to update my family, friends, and readers as I receive results and answers. Thank you to the many people who donated to my Stem Cell Transplant Fund to make this week of evaluations possible!

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