The Patient, family members spanning three generations, medical staff, and even a chaplain crowded into the hospital room for the actual stem cell transplant. It began with my dad asking to actually hold the stem cells which he reverently, yet excitedly cradled. The nurse hooked it up to his pole while the chaplain said a prayer. After about the first three words, the sound of his voice faded into the background for me. I couldn't hear anything as my five senses narrowed down to just my sight. My eyes locked onto the clear saline of his IV line. Clear fluid slowly turns to pink. The pink is then replaced by the rusty red of the stem cells. I watched as the line of color advanced through the IV towards his body and then escaped into his veins, hopefully to take up residence in their new home.
"I've got new homes for all 4 million of you," my dad says to his own body while pointing to his bones.
As tears started to come to my eyes, I was overwhelmed by how arduous the journey has been. When life has whipped you so many times, it's all too easy to lose track of just how far you've come. So many times the fate of this journey could have changed on the smallest of fortunes. Infections, anemic crises, infections, bleeds, infections, clots, infections. And I was keenly aware of how we were missing one person in that room. How my brother would've loved to see this for our dad. It's so very confusing feeling elation, gratitude, weariness, pride and profound loss all in the matter of a moment. The infusion finished without any bumps or problems.
With any infusion of biological products comes benadryl. With benadryl comes drowsiness. My wife and I stepped out for a bit as my dad drifted off for a well deserved rest. There on the top shelf of the gift store sat a rather goofy birthday hat which my wife spied. No, it was not my dad's birthday, at least in the conventional sense. However, the nurses on the floor view the transplant as a new birthday and cheerfully wish the patient "happy birthday" on the day of the stem cell transplant. The more we thought about it, the more we liked it so she purchased the hat and took it back to his room. We put it on him, sang "Happy Birthday" to him, and then paraded him around the entire ward. Without fail, every patient and staff member cracked a smile when they saw him and wished him "Happy Birthday". It was one of the most irreverantly touching moments I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Happy Birthday, Dad!