Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Latest News on James

Hello Everyone,

It’s been awhile since we have written for the blog. Our close friend Bill has been nice enough to keep things going over the past two months. We realized today just how long it’s been and thought a note to you all was in order.

James was released from his second hospital stay on Thursday, July 10th, in time to go to our friends’ wedding the next day. He was in the hospital for 27 days this go-around. His official diagnosis for treatment while in the hospital was Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD). This is when the new donor immune system doesn’t recognize parts of James’ body so assumes it is something bad and attacks it. In general, GVHD attacks the skin (a rash), the digestive system (think REALLY BAD stomach flu), the liver, and the eyes.

James’ GVHD manifested in a skin rash and problems with his digestive tract. Because he wasn’t absorbing any food, he needed to be put on IV supplements. He was without important proteins for awhile, which led to CRAZY water retention (James gained 40-50 lbs in water weight in 1 week, he blew up like the Michelin man, poor guy). They increased his steroids to treat the GVHD, which led to medication induced diabetes, for which he is still being treated. Meanwhile, several viral and bacterial infections began to rear their heads. It was all a bit overwhelming for the first two weeks he was in hospital, but slowly James began to make progress on all fronts. He is eating a very restricted diet to give his system a chance to heal and taking lots of meds, but he is home and doing well.

Although the GVHD is alarming, there is a potential good side to it: when the rest of his body is being attacked by the donor immune system, if there was any remaining marrow of James’ that was not destroyed by the chemo, it is likely also being attacked. This means that if there were any remaining marrow cells with MDS in James’ bones, the new donor immune system likely destroyed these at the same time they were attacking his stomach and skin. The doctors like to say that “a little GVHD is good” specifically for this reason.

We just found out great news! On his last day in hospital James underwent his first bone marrow biopsy post-transplant. This is the most important post-transplant test. From it we found out that none of James’ old marrow cells were present, only donor cells. This is wonderful news as it tells us that engraftment has occurred and the transplant was, at this point, successful. James’ marrow will be tested several more times over the coming year to make sure that the level of donor cells remains high, but this is a great first step. We are still awaiting some additional tests from the biopsy to see if James’ chromosomes are also healthy. We will let everyone know when we find out the results.

On the financial side of things, we did receive some bad news when James was in the hospital: we have officially exceeded the allotted transplant funds according to our insurance plan. This means that much of James’ second hospital stay and subsequent procedures will be paid out of pocket by us. We will be joining a new health plan soon, but we suspect that we will owe between $20-$75K, depending on what we can negotiate with the hospital.

We will be having some fundraising events in the next few months to help defray these costs and will keep you posted regarding when and where these will be occurring.

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement.

Love,
James and Stacey

5 comments:

tarra said...

Well wishes from the "least coast." Travis and I will be home next week and if you need an escape, we'd be happy to take Robert off your hands for a night! Love you guys and hope to see you while we're home!

Much love,
Tarra & Travis

george said...

Once again, thanks for the update all. It sounds like it's been rough going, but I'm glad for the embedded good news about the success. The process sounds rough, and I wish we could be there to help out. It must be nice for everyone to have James home again. Please give him a hug from us. We miss you all.
Love,
Beth, Mike, and Shaun

tarra said...

I want you both (and Robert, too) to know how much I love you and how hard it is for me to be in New York right now. Please know that you are often in my thoughts and wishes- now more than ever. I will be home as soon as I can. You are strong people. I am trying to be strong, too.

I have fond memories of horseplay and such with you, James and I've been waiting for the day that you could again take me by the arms, put your leg behind mine, and tell [force] me to "take a seat" or throw me over your shoulder and spin me around. It's been too long.

Love you so much. So much. You can beat this.
-tarra lynne

SrLampara said...

Bill- Any chance "Born to Slack" episodes can get on youtube? Us faraway friends of James would really appreciate it if it is possible.
Thank you.

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