Sunday, August 26, 2007

Finishing BMT.

photo: leukemia cells. From PLOS Biology.

I'm now finished with the bone marrow transplant service--or what is really the hematologic malignancy service, which serves people with lymphoma, leukemia or other problems of their blood and immune cells. It was a tough month, with long hours, as my lack of posting at this blog will reveal.

One snapshot:

The floor below is a labor and delivery floor. On the elevator up, a family of kids and adults is talking excitedly, carrying a congratulatory balloon. One woman stands quietly on the side; the oncology/bone marrow transplant floor button is already pushed when I get on. The family leaves at the labor and delivery floor, and the door closes, leaving her and me in the elevator. She says, "It's amazing how different those two floors of the hospital are." We get off at the next floor; it is quiet.

A sign at the entrance to the BMT wing tells visitors that children under 6 are not allowed. Small children and their microbes are among the many things which pose potentially mortal danger to people getting bone marrow transplants. They are sitting in their rooms, waiting for their new immune systems to grow.


Laurie said...

It's always weird to me when I enter the hospital and I'm not the patient or I'm not visiting a seriously ill relative. Nothing makes that difference more clear than when I visit friends and relatives who just delivered babies. Every time I get on the elevator I think to myself, "It's nice to be reminded that there are events that go on here that bring sheer joy and hope, that people are happy to be visitors."

Joe Wright said...

Thanks for stopping by, Laurie!

As I'm sure you know, happiness can also erupt all of a sudden in all sorts of places in the hospital, although the happiness of relief or of the end of an ordeal is a different kind of happiness than the happiness of a new life in the world. I have to think about how exactly, but it's definitely very different.

When people leave the BMT floor, it can be an event that brings joy and hope, though--it's just a long wait inside a little room before that happens. But it was great sometimes when people left, and we'd be sitting in the work area in the middle of the unit, and they'd sort of parade by, waving: "Good-bye!" full of excitement and hope. (And often, sending packages of cookies and candy to the nurses afterwards.) Maybe there is an analogy: they had new immune systems, and in that sense there had been a kind of birth.


Laurie said...

Yes, I agree, very different types of happiness. Both wonderful and both hard-earned, but different.

I like the analogy of the imune system and birth--for these patients, it really must be a whole new life stretching befor them.

Great writing, btw. I really enjoy this blog.

Chris said...

I really enjoy this blog, too, Joe. Though your extended absence may become a regular feature from here out, it did leave me feeling a bit like I was waiting by the phone for a call that only comes when you've sworn the bastard off forever. Or like playing the slots.

My brother's experience with lymphoma gave me a real appreciation of the power of hope and of faith to carry a person though the worst of times with grace and peace, and even joy. Anyone can have joy in the begining of a life. It takes a different character to have joy at or near the end.

Glad to see you back, if only for a minute.

Joe Wright said...

Thanks to both of you for your kind words. More posts soon!