The perspective in this week's Leader by Jefferson Healthcare CEO Mike Glenn reminds me that I need to express some gratitude for how fortunate I am to live a short walk away from our local hospital. When cancer remission allows, I've had peripheral blood draws in the first floor lab. When relapse requires a central venous port, I've had port blood draws in Specialty Services, where oncology resides.
The personnel in both places have been unfailingly professional and kind. In fact, I've named my go-to vein for peripheral draws 'Terry's vein' because Terry, the phlebotomist who first tapped it, works in that first floor lab. The current relapse was visualized in September by a PET/CT in Seattle at the UW Medical Center, where the big city tech running the fancy equipment was happy to be directed to Terry's vein to light me up with radioactive fluorodeoxyglucose. As a 17-year survivor of five separate rounds of chemo, the old veins can be pretty hard to find so the medical types always inquire about which veins can still be tapped.
Those routine monitoring blood samples get analysed here and the results sent to UW to track remission or relapse. Sometimes the staff here are curious as to why I haven't signed on with the full suite of our local oncology services and still choose to travel to Seattle for the parts involving poisons and scalpels. I've got a ten-plus-year relationship with a surgeon oncologist at UW, an exceptional doctor who has herded me through the most recent three of four relapses following a primary diagnosis and treatment in 1999. That's a relationship I won't be walking away from.
But it's the non-routine aspects of our local care that inspire a special gratitude. The results of a blood analysis in mid-January indicated that I was severely anemic and needed a blood transfusion since I was no longer 'within parameters', as the nursing staff says, to receive the first half of my sixth and final cycle of chemo the following day. Although I once routinely donated blood, I had never had a blood transfusion before and the whole idea was disconcerting. I showed up late in the day in oncology on the third floor of our local hospital because I needed advice and help and didn't want to go to Seattle for a transfusion before chemo. I was settled into a comfortable chair, contact was made between the oncology ARNP here and the UW oncology ARNPs, orders were established, I was typed and crossed and soon I received a unit of A+ blood. Just like that, calm, professional. After chemo in Seattle the next day, I came back 'accessed', with all the tubes and fittings still attached as evidence of this collaboration, and received another unit of A+, sitting comfortably, watching the afternoon light on Port Townsend Bay.
So now I'm a quart up instead of a quart low. I finished chemo. Next week, the Seattle tech will again light me up with radioactive fluorodeoxyglucose for a PET/CT to see how the chemo worked and with a little luck, we'll declare a fifth remission. Thanks fo the staff here, to Rebecca, Jeinell, Ayla, Greg, Rick, Shannon, Tammy Jo and others up there on the shiny new third floor of our hospital, much of it has been a comforting experience so very close to home.