We immediately came up to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) to have his line placed and to begin the Apheresis process of harvesting his stem cells. Jalen's room was filled with lots of cool things celebrating and reminding him of how awesome he is as a Super Hero Donor Brother. Within that small window of time we were greeted and bombarded by a gang of people who wanted information, needed signatures, or wanted to revisit the procedures in detail. It was very overwhelming and only added to Jalen's angst. How many people can you fit in a PICU patients room? There were approximately 12 in rotation at any given moment.
Anesthesia was able to put Jalen under within about 20 seconds. They proceeded to hook up a few additional monitors and my boy found some combative energy, so he had to be taken up a notch. Once he was settled and all his vitals were steady, the team placing the line started laying out and lining up their supplies. At that point I started to question if I 'wanted' to be in the room while they inserted the line. After a very brief discussion, I decided I would wait in the Family Lounge until the line placement was complete. The process normally takes 15-30 minutes. It was hard to leave him there, but I was assured as soon as it was done, I would be called before the Apheresis team started harvesting Jalen's cells. I was told no news was good news. I went into the Family Lounge and began to pray for both my children and their respective halves of the whole picture. After about 40 minutes, no news definitely did not feel like good news. I began to wonder if something was wrong. Each time the main door to the PICU opened, I could see into Jalen's room and they were working hard. I later found out several attempts were made to place the line in Jalen's right leg, but due to the close proximity of his artery and his vein, they were not able to get the line in successfully. They kept getting the artery which eventually caused an enormous hematoma under the skin. That area was bandaged and they moved to the left leg which finally was a success.
Jalen came to and was mildly combative. The harvesting of the cells was extremely important, so the Doctors decided to give him medicine to relax him and allow him to sleep so they could get through the process as quickly and smoothly as possible. The Apheresis machine withdraws the blood from the body and separates it into plasma, platelets, white blood cells and red blood cells. The stem cells are removed and the remaining components are returned to the body. A anticoagulant medication is mixed in to prevent the blood from clotting while outside of the body and saline is given to replace the removed components. The procedure normally takes 1.5-3 hours. Jalen's labs showed his counts were lower than expected, so they decision was made to collect cells for an additional half hour to try to collect as much as possible.
Once the cells were collected, it would take about an hour to determine if we were successful in collecting the 4 million cells needed for Mireya's transplant. If we were unsuccessful then Jalen would be given a double dose of the GCSF and his cells would be harvested again. The transplant would still be conducted as scheduled, because Mireya's conditioning schedule is very specific and on the 4th day she would need to receive what cells were collected from her brother. If it was not enough, she would receive a second transplant on the following day. We were notified later in the evening, the apheresis of Jalen's cells did not produce the required amount of cells to complete the transplant and he would need to be re-harvested tomorrow morning. This is not the news we wanted or expected to hear, but we will plan to repeat the process tomorrow and trust that an additional dose of the GCSF will produce what we need.
It took a considerable amount of time for Jalen to come out of the fog of all the meds he'd been given. He would have small moments of rambling and crying fits. I was really concerned because he just could not be roused out of it. Eventually (3.5 hours later) he started responding to questions with clarity and snapping out of it. He hadn't eaten in over 17 hours and was very hungry, but still tired. Shortly after that he asked for snacks and more juice and I could see he was really returning to himself. He told me he was ready to go home, to which I replied we still have a little more work to do to complete the process and we would be able to go home tomorrow.
Mireya had a difficult night. Severe headaches and fever plagued her through the evening. Blood cultures were taken to ensure there is no underlying infection and an antibiotic has been added to her arsenal of medications. The Medical team believes it's the ATG that is making her ill. Mireya tolerated her last round of chemo and her ATG schedule as been drawn out to hopefully eliminate some of the issues she had last night. So far, those modifications seem to be working.
Having two kids in the hospital at the same time is a lot. We're so thankful for our family and friends for all you do to make this easier for us. Tomorrow is another big day to give and receive. Please continue to pray for Jalen, Mireya and #TeamBolton. Your love, encouragement, support and kind gestures are a tremendous blessing to us. This truly is a new beginning, but we are counting down the days, weeks, months and year to total victory over this illness.