August 24 is a day that I will never forget or ignore. If you talk to anyone who has any kind of transplant, that day is like your second birthday. The 24th is mine. The nurses were in bright and early that day to start doing some extra tests to make sure I was all prepared to receive Virginia’s bone marrow. For most of the morning, Virginia was the only thing on my mind. She was only 12 at the time, and I felt so guilty that because of me she was going to have to go to surgery and be put under anesthesia for the first time. Even though Doctor Neville assured us all that it was a simple procedure, and that he was even going to do it himself, I felt like I was holding my breath all morning waiting for word that she was done.
During the procedure Virginia would be asleep and unaware, and Doctor Neville would go into her hip bone, much like a bone marrow biopsy to retrieve the much needed marrow. They told us that if they could not get enough from her hip, they would go into her breast bone. This sounded so much worse to me, and I can remember praying that she would only have to endure them going into her hip.
Mom had gone up with Virginia, and my aunts Sadie and Ruby had come up to help us all get through the day. It was a sunny day, and I remember asking Sadie to open the blinds, and then she had gone out of the room for a few minutes. When she went out, the sun hit the mirror that was on the wall to the right of my bed over the sink, and I had the sudden urge to see what my bald head looked like, so I asked my aunt Ruby to help me get positioned on the bed so I could see my reflection.
My poor Ruby, she is one of the most soft hearted, kind people in the world, and I know that she loves me unconditionally, and she was having just as hard time with me being sick as my Mom, Dad and my Nanny were…so she seemed a bit reluctant to help me up, and I couldn’t understand why. I had not yet seen my head, and that was really all I was thinking about. But when I sat up, Ruby sat at my back to help support me sitting up, and there in the mirror was a stranger. The girl looking back at me was not only bald, but her eyes were black and yellow from my eye brows to almost the middle of my cheeks, and were all swollen so that she looked like someone had beaten her badly. Her lips were cracked, dry and had pieces of dry blood in the corners, and her actual color was kind of a pale green. All I could do was stare for a few minutes, before I finally lifted my hand to touch my eyes, and the girl in the mirror did the same thing. It was then that my ego took over, and I started one of those deep sobbing cries, where the snot runs down from your nose, and you feel like you can’t catch your breath. And suddenly behind me, I could feel my aunt’s body, matching mine in sobs as she held me. All she kept saying was that she was sorry. Sorry that it was all happening, sorry that she had helped me sit up, and sorry that she couldn’t make it better. It was not just me that was being affected by aplastic anemia, it was wearing on everyone around me.
Around 11a.m. Mom came back to tell us that Virginia was out of surgery, and that Doctor Neville had been able to get enough marrow from just her hip, he extracted about a litre and a half altogether. The transplant would happen at 1p.m. For all the talk of this big transplant, when the time came my mom had actually gone to check on Virginia, and my poor aunt Ruby was there, I am sure having a heart attack as they came in to start. But all it really was was just a milky, bloody looking bag that the nurse took in to hang on my IV pole. It would go into the line on my chest, and would take about twenty five minutes. The scary thing was that I was monitored very carefully for a few things, there was a great chance that my heart could stop, and there was also a chance that my body would immediately start rejecting the new marrow, and with that various things could happen; it could be as simple as a temperature, to something more serious as seizures, the nurses stayed and kept watch, and Doctor Neville also came in to reassure me that Virginia was okay and that things were going well. After seeing me, he went and told the nurse to help Virginia come to see me. Seeing her hobble in the room was all I needed to relax and carry on with the day, and I think Doctor Neville realized that, he was starting to grow on me.
And then it was over, Mom, Dad, Ruby and Sadie all sat around me that afternoon as I kept falling asleep and waking back up. I think all of us kind of thought that something would happen right away after the transplant, but it didn’t. Mom and Dad looked exhausted that night, but happy to take Virginia back to the hotel with them. Tomorrow would be “Day One”, and we wondered what might happen.
God was far from finished with me yet, and there are so many more stories within the "big one" to tell!