Apheresis

Apheresis, and more specifically leukaperisis is a fancy name for collecting your white blood cells and that’s what today was all about.

Things started off with a bit of a bump due to COVID and exacerbated by the newer COVID variants being detected in the Toronto area. At the hospital entrance there is quite intense COVID screening. As a patient, I‘m good to go. However, Shirley as a “visitor” or “support person”, not so much. The letter detailing my appointment today stated that she would be able to accompany me into the hospital and be allowed into a waiting area near where I’d be treated. The idea being that she would be able to be closer and get me anything that I might need, like Starbucks 🙂 .

However, the very official screener person was not having any of that. Without a very specific letter allowing Shirley to accompany me, he denied her entry. Plus she couldn’t wait anywhere in the hospital building and was asked to go outside where it was -8°C (thankfully we’re not in Winnipeg where it was more like -35°C). Fortunately, she was able to go across the street to Princess Margaret Hospital where she explained the situation and they allowed her to stay inside a sort of “no man’s zone” between the front doors and before you are actually in the hospital. Tears were involved.

Meanwhile I’m off in the Toronto General to the blood lab for some more testing prior to the apheresis. This time I did get a bit lost and asked for some directions (not a guy thing). Blood work completed, it’s up to the 12th floor for the procedure (didn’t get lost this time). I check in and I’m shown to my home for the next 4 1/2 hours.

The Machine

There is quite a bit of pre-work as the machine runs through it’s self-testing to ensure it’s operational and not leaking, that’s a good thing. Then there is quite a complex procedural thing about the very special box that will be used to ship my blood product to the USA. More on that later.

Then I’m hooked up. WARNING: if you’re squeamish, you might want to skip over the next couple of picture.

First there is the outflow. It’s actually three tubes. One is my blood, another is feeding in an anticoagulant and the third is for something else that I can’t recall right now.

The Outflow

On the other side it’s the inflow. This is my blood minus the part that they are collecting plus an IV of some calcium to counteract the anticoagulant that has been mixed in with my blood on the outflow. Apparently the anticoagulant can cause some minor side effects, none of which happen to me.

The Inflow

So while I’m in the chair I can’t move too much and I’m limited to one handed texting and browsing social media etc.

Just hanging out for 1/2 a day

And when we’re all done, here is the result.

The white blood cells. Look sorta red eh?

This stuff is now being treated like gold. There is an extensive process that must be followed to the letter on a computer system about recording all the various numbers on the above bag, the box numbers, the serial number of the temperature monitoring device that will go into the box with the blood product and a whole lot more. The process takes four different people form various parts of the organization to witness the process and sign off on various steps. Once the box is fully sealed and I’ve witnessed the process I can go. Shortly, a dedicated courier from Detroit will arrive and take possession of the box. He will then drive the box back to Detroit. From there I’m not exactly sure where it’s going but it’s being worked on starting on Friday.

I get re-united with Shirley and we eat some of the lunch we packed and are picked up and driven back to my cousin’s house. We’re both a little exhausted even though it was just a day of sitting around, It’s been an emotional process even though we’ve done it once before and COVID has certainly not helped the situation. We get take-out Thai for dinner and relax with a movie before calling it a day.

Thankful that this phase is complete and that we’ll be returning home on Saturday. It will be approximately 4 weeks before we return to Toronto for the main event. Some time to relax and think and do some more (sort of) normal things.

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