Monday, October 27, 2008

Herbert Hoover and me

At my clinic visit today, I learned that my marrow is now 97 percent donor. This is, of course, wonderful news. I was slightly deflated to learn, however, that the percentage of T cells is rather low. (I didn’t ask for the figure.) Dr. Alyea said that he would be concerned if both numbers were low, but with one high (and with so many donor cells floating around) chances are good that the T cell number will rise. To help the donor along, I am lowering one of my immune suppressants, the prograf, or Tacrolimus, to .5 mg twice a day.

My hematocrit was up, to 28.9, due to last week’s transfusion. Platelets had inched up, to 49, and the white was down to 1.3, from 5.7 at my last visit after getting a week’s worth of boosting from Neupogen shots. Although I would have liked the number to be higher, Alyea said he was happy because my neutrophil count is high. (The way I explain this to myself is that I have a lot of healthy baby white cells on their way up.)

This was a fine report, but it was not, “Hurray, your counts are GREAT!”

I got anxious on my drive home, thinking, “Now I have to worry about T cells?” and “Why aren’t those platelets higher” and “What if the white count is still low next week?”

It was late by then, because my appointment had been at 3:30 instead of the usual late-morning or early-afternoon slot. In case you’re wondering where Herbert Hoover comes in, here it is: The 31st president became my distraction-of-the-day, thanks to a report about him on “All Things Considered,"discussing the debate between Hoover and his opponent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, about ending the Great Depression, and tying it into our current presidential race.

I began piecing together my own tangential relationship with Hoover, and by the time I was finished, I was almost home and was not thinking about blood counts.

My sister, Diane, and I grew up in a small two-bedroom apartment at 1200 Fifth Ave., where we shared a bedroom. We looked out on a side street (101st) but if you craned your neck, you could see Central Park across the street. When we were really little, cousins of Herbert Hoover lived across the hall. They had a beautiful, much larger apartment with a sweeping view of the park.

I will have to do more research to fill in the blanks and make this a more journalistically respectable post. Googling has not been much help, so I’m going to call some of our elderly friends in the building to see if they can answer a few questions, now that I decided to write about it. (I want my mother! She would tell me.)

Anyway, there was Mrs. Hoover, her sister, Auntie Flo, and George, a younger man whom I believe was Mrs. Hoover’s son. To us, Mrs. Hoover never had a first name. This was the early 1960s, when we were very young, and Mrs. Hoover and Auntie Flo seemed (and I think were) VERY old. We hung back when our mother led us across the hall to say hello. It was dark and scary over there. You’d come into the large entryway and turn left into a big room with dark floor-length drapes, where Mrs. Hoover, always wearing a long dressing gown, sat ready to receive us. It felt like a haunted Halloween house. And as a sign that they didn’t clean very much, when they moved out, all the hungry roaches came skittering across the hall to us.

Our mother gave us a gentle nudge and we went, one at a time, to get a wet whiskery kiss from Mrs. Hoover, who always held a big glass of scotch in long, thin, bejeweled fingers.
Back in our apartment, we often heard the son (I THINK his name was George) shouting conversationally to Auntie Flo, who was quite deaf. Occasionally they came over for drinks. Mrs. Hoover would make herself comfortable and then she would hold up her glass full of scotch, raise it to her eye level, and say, “Dearies, the only way to see life at my age is through a glass like this.”

Suitably pickled, she lived a long life. I think Auntie Flo did the same. I’m not sure what happened to George.

Ahhh, those were the days, before I ever gave a thought to a thing called blood counts.

There isn’t much of a moral or message here, except to say that distraction sure works well if we follow the cues. Thank you NPR.


emmysue said...

Funny how you can know some one almost your whole life (as I have known you) and still have never heard about your relationship to the Hoovers. Great story. I look forward to your filling in the missing pieces. Glad it was a distraction.

PJ said...

I too have NPR to thank for lots of thinking material, although I doubt I've used it as creatively as you have.

As for the t-cell %, I've spent many hours puzzling over why my donor chimerism shows nearly 100% engraftment yet my t-cells are always less. Mine went from 78% at 3 months down to 32% at 6 and up to 82% at one year. Dr. A said the same thing to me as your doctor, that given the good engraftment, I shouldn't worry about it. Once you stop all immune suppressants, it seems the donor % increases.

Ken R said...

Enjoyed the Hoover story as well. Thanks for sharing it. Amazing how little things on the radio or in magazines or a book can vividly bring back things that happened decades ago.

Carrie said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Ronni! I enjoyed "meeting" you on yours! We seem to have a lot in common. :)

Susan C said...

Mrs. Hoover was a hoot! Can't wait to hear more about the family.

vytas said...

Wow. That is great news on the chimerism; the rest of the numbers will follow in time when the donor's blood gets its act together and starts cranking out all those cells you want. They frequently take awhile to get fully acclimated to those new digs inside your bones. Way to go Ronni!

susiegb said...

Great news about your BM Ronnie. Just enjoy it and feel great about it - there's always something to worry about if we let it. :)