Tags: Cancer | hemoglobin | blood donation | cancer | Boston

It's the Little Things That Get to You

By    |   Tuesday, 17 June 2014 03:14 PM

Sometimes when you’re dealing with the after effects of cancer treatment, it’s the little problems, (not the life-threatening ones) that can be the most annoying, like a mosquito buzzing around your head in the middle of the night.
Getting rid of the excess iron in my blood, which is the result of multiple transfusions, has been an ongoing challenge. I have to take a daily dose (five pills dissolved in water) of a drug called Exjade, which helps remove excess ferritin from my blood. Ferritin is the protein that stores iron, and too much of it can damage internal organs and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Another way to lower you ferritin level to have blood removed every two months. I’ve been getting this done along with my other medical appointments, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s blood donor center in Boston.
Unfortunately, donating blood can lead to slight anemia, resulting in my either being drowsy on the 90-mile drive home or necessitating a sleepover at my sister’s home nearby.
My medical team in Boston likes me to have most things done there, and due to the annoying glitch that occurred the other day, I can see why.
I recently tried to have blood drawn locally at Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass. When you do this, you must first have blood tested to make sure that your red cell count is high enough so you will not get anemic after the procedure. My hemoglobin was 11. The orders written by Melissa, my nurse practitioner in Boston, called for it to be 11.3.
I asked the phlebotomist if she could try it on the other hand because there could be a variation in such a small amount of blood. They knew enough to do this at Boston; it had happened to me twice before that the first stick was just a little bit low on hemoglobin, but the second time it was fine.
The nurse supervisor said it was a good stick and they would not do it again. She said my hemoglobin was just too low. Of course, for a cancer survivor the word "low" always causes a residual anxiety to kick in.
A little while later, a resident came in and seconded the decision not to recheck my blood. They paged Melissa to, but she didn’t call back. When I finally heard from her, she said she would have given permission.
My doctor in Boston had suggested I get a blood test locally in between appointments, so I thought that while I was in the hospital I would walk to the reference lab in the other wing and get that done. But they said the standing order had just expired, and so they couldn’t do it.
This whole process of not getting anything done took more than two hours — which, ironically, is less than the time it would have taken me to drive to Boston.
Next time I am going to schedule everything in Boston again. If I get tired on the way home, I’ll just drink a lot of coffee.

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Sometimes when you’re dealing with the cancer treatment, it’s the little problems, (not the life-threatening ones) that can be the most annoying, like a mosquito around your head in the middle of the night.
hemoglobin, blood donation, cancer, Boston
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 03:14 PM
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