Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Hep C Treatment: A Pit Stop at the Emergency Room

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you probably already know that I made a little detour Monday to the Emergency Room to get a blood transfusion.

As I explained here, a low red blood cell count is a side-effect of ribavirin, my pink "girl power" pills, and my latest blood work from last Sunday showed that my hemoglobin had gotten too low.

Here is a chart that shows exactly what has been happening to my hemoglobin count:

Time Frame Hemoglobin level
before treatment 13.5 (normal)
treatment week 2 10.5
treatment week 3 8.5
treatment week 4 7.8

Now compare my values with the normal hemoglobin range for a woman, which is 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter (per the Mayo Clinic.)  When my hemoglobin level reached 8.5 g/dl, that was the critical point where medical decisions needed to be made to reverse the decline in my red blood cells. That first decision was a ribavirin dose reduction on March 19th and the second a blood transfusion on March 26th.

During my blood transfusion experience this week, I have to say a lot of different thoughts came to my mind, from the practical to the absurd:
  • Darn.  If I had known that blood transfusions where a part of Hep C treatment, I would have gotten vaccinated for Hep B a long time ago.  (I started the vaccination series back in February 2012, but have not had enough time to finished it yet.  However, my primary care doctor did say that the first shot conveys about 80% of the immunity.)
  • Good grief!  I had a blood cancer, leukemia, 24 years ago and that treatment required a multitude of blood transfusions.  I got a blood-borne illness, Hep C, from the blood transfusions.  Now in 2012, I am treating the Hep C, which is making me anemic and in need of a blood transfusion.  (How's that for coming full circle?)
  • Crap.  Now what I am going to get.  (More of an emotional or gut reaction, since blood transfusions today are much safer than they were 24 years ago.)
  • Yikes! The last time I had blood transfusions, I had so many of them I started getting transfusions reactions. And now I am worried...  (Everything went O.K.) 
  • Huh.  I am really hoping this doesn't become something I need on a regular basis. (Note to self: must make some phone calls and discuss other options with my doctors.)
  • Wow, I do feel better now that I am getting some red blood cells.  (I also feel a little strange knowing I have someone else's blood inside me.)
  • Sigh.  I wish my Dad was still here.  *sniff-sniff* (Towards the end of my cancer treatment, my Dad regularly donated blood and platelets to me, which ended my transfusion reactions and literally saved my life.  Where he still here with me today, I know he would be heading to the blood bank to donate blood for me once again.)
  • He, he!  One of my friends on Facebook just called me a vampire!  Ha, ha!  (Yeah, not sure I want to BE a vampire, but I appreciate the chuckle that comment brought me.)

Overall, I do feel better since the transfusion.  I feel less like a rag doll (as my reader Mo so aptly described how anemia feels in a very nice comment she left me--thanks #13!) and more like a flesh and solidly-boned person.

Unfortunately, this period of blood cell count changes is not over yet and I will need to go back in about a week to have my counts checked once again.  Hopefully the benefits of the ribavirin dose reduction I underwent on March 19th will reach their full effect by then, which would mean my hemoglobin level will stabilize and no further medical intervention is needed.  *fingers-crossed*  

Meanwhile, my white blood cell count is down too.  It is currently hovering around 2.8 to 3 billion cells per liter.  (The normal range is 3.5-10.5 billion cells/L.)  Perhaps this explains why I caught a cold at the end of last week?  But I also seemed to get over that cold pretty quickly, probably because of the extra virus-busting boost I get each week after my shot of interferon.  I'm going to stop here because this topic really deserve a post of its own, which I promise to get to in the upcoming week...

For now, just know that I am tackling every side-effect that comes my way and working to keep everything in perspective, as I continue to trudge my way uphill during this, the hard part of Hep C treatment.

Until next time...

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1 comment

abcsofra said...

You have been and will be until this treatment for Hep C is done in my prayers. And yup, I figure every little bit helps. ((HUGS))