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the Transplant

Wow, I have just realized it was July 9 since we last sent out an update.  Time really has bee running on since we arrived in Genova at the end of May. There are some gory details in this report so get someone else to check it out before if you have a weak constitution!
As I write Massimo is actually IN hospital (finally) after weeks of YES /NO,  caused by infection after infection, followed by a spot of tummy troubles. All these are risks which had to be fully identified/cured before he could be admitted. The specialist doctors explained that any resurgence of these infections after a bone marrow transplant could have very grave consequences. Hence, he missed his slot in July and then they had some bed shortages caused by cutbacks, which seem to be troubling the whole of Europe.  August is a pretty dead month here in Italy.’Ferragosto’ in mid August is the biggest holiday of the year and everyone takes holiday (some for the whole month) Inevitably his admission date was pushed to the end of August.
Whilst waiting, we fitted in a quick weekend back home to see the family near Ivrea, with Tracy’s nephew Luke who was touring Europe with Inter rail. He is studying medicine and was keen to know more about Massimo’s condition & treatment.  There was a festival that weekend, with dancing and bands playing, and local food was prepared for hundreds of people. Along with lots of other goodies, there was fresh fish from the local lake, called ‘coregone’ which is a white fish but tastes a little like trout. The weather was hot and we had to make sure we had our mozzie repellant as near the lake and further inland mozzies rule in summer.

(mamma Ileana, papa’ Igino, Tracy & Luke in Piverone)
Genova has less of a problem, there is usually a nice sea breeze & little rain. Now that the high summer has passed the days are warm and sunny still (26/27C) but not searingly hot as they were in July. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s a bit boring seeing yet another blue sky every morning, but I don’t want to jinx  anything. It’s only rained 3 times since the end of May. Enough said.
Another job done while we waited was the insertion of a Hickman catheter, which is inserted under local anaesthetic into a vein in the neck so that medicines and fluids can be easily infused once in hospital. After a day of discomfort was hardly noticeable.
So once admission date arrived we prepared ourselves and got on the bus (yes!) with a little bag full of scant personal items and the all important laptop, full up with films & comedies enough to sustain any patient for 6 weeks locked in a hospital room. (Hopefully enough to prevent a person losing their mind!)
After a week of intensive chemotherapy the transplant was done on Tuesday 3 September, Massimo’s new birthday (as he calls it) 1.5L of bone marrow was taken from Loretta, his sister. She stayed in hospital 2 nights and suffered pain & discomfort but is on the mend now & is going back to work in the next few days, for her it was a discomfort well worth enduring as it’s saving her baby brother’s life.  After being filtered & watered down a ‘bone marrow soup’ was infused into him over 8 hours. I know it’s not a technical description but it’s the easiest way to describe it! For those of you who have not seen the magic you can click here, as we did manage to catch this on film:

http://twitpic.com/dbrb5x

So that is termed as ‘day zero’ and every day after that is zero plus 1. On the day of the transplant they gave him lots of liquids, so much so, that he peed 5L of the stuff.  Yes I know it’s hard to believe! And he had to keep it as it was more or less radioactive – they have to dilute it with bleach before they can flush it away! Are you still with us?
Since then its been a daily routine of more meds, breakfast, lunch & dinner (if he can stomach it, the drugs do take their toll) and a daily visit from the smiling wife, although she has to be completely gowned & masked so you don’t see the face at all!
The doctors have said everything is proceeding as normal so far, although it will be a few weeks before they are certain the transplant is a success. So it’s 4 more weeks inside with plenty of medicine & medical support. We have to hand it to the medical profession here, they do everything by the letter and clinical care is excellent.

Massimo is keeping very strong, despite lots of pain & discomfort resulting from the side effects of chemotherapy & other drugs. He has recently been given morphine intravenously which helps to overcome the pain.  In one more week he will be half way through his hospital stay, and then after 3 more weeks as long as he’s strong & making lots of new blood cells he can come back to the apartment in Genova.  He will have to go to the outpatients clinic for treatment 3/4 times a week for up to 3 months. It’s a long haul – now you understand why we had to stay away for so long.

Follow us in Twitter where we often publish photos & more news:@MTwillbeback

Buon appetito

Massimo & Tracy

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