Sunday, January 30, 2011

Birthday Happenings And A Recipe

We celebrated Reid's birthday on Friday with dinner at home.  I made Roast Sticky Chicken and if you've never had it you're missing something good.  I got the recipe years ago from Real Food For Real People which is now a Yahoo Group.  You can sign up and have recipes E-mailed to you, but I turned off the E-mail feature a while back due to time restraints right now.   She said the recipe originally came from Mimi's Cyber Kitchen, but I wasn't able to find it on her site.   It might still be there, but I only took a quick look.  Lots of other interesting sounding recipes, so I think I'll have to get back over there soon and look around.

Roast Sticky Chicken is spicy, moist, and delicious.  It cooks for 5 hours at a low temperature.  This is how it looks before it goes in the oven.

And this is how it looks when it comes out.

Please excuse the crummy looking roasting pan.  It's actually a lasagna pan that I bought when we lived in Sicily over 40 years ago!  It's been used a lot.

Here's the recipe:

Roast Sticky Chicken
1 large chicken - (roasting)
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. white pepper
1 t. thyme
1 t. onion powder
1 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. paprika
4 t. salt (I omit)

In a small bowl thoroughly combine all the spices.  Remove giblets from chicken, clean the cavity well and pat dry with paper towels.  Rub the spice mixture into the chicken, both inside and out, making sure it is evenly distributed and down deep into the skin.  Place in a resealable plastic bag, seal and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to roast chicken, stuff cavity with onions, and place in a shallow baking pan.  Roast uncovered at 250 degrees F for 5 hours.  After the first hour (I usually wait two), baste chicken occasionally (every half hour or so) with pan juices.  (It may take a while to have pan juices.)  The pan juices will start to caramelize on the bottom of the pan and the chicken will turn a golden brown.  If the chicken contains a pop-up thermometer, ignore it.  Let chicken rest about ten minutes before carving.

With the chicken we had brown rice with nuts and asparagus.  I bought rolls, but forgot to serve them.  I also made Taffy Apple Salad the day before and forgot about that too.  There was too much going on and it just wasn't one of my better days.  :)  

We had cake and ice cream afterwards.  This is Reid with the cake.  It said, "Happy Birthday Reid!  And Many More!"

And here he is making a wish and blowing out the candles.

After dinner we spent the evening playing this game.

It's called Betrayal At House On Haunted Hill and is pretty involved.

Troy didn't make it on Friday, but came over on Saturday.   Jim, Keith, Reid and Troy went out for lunch.  I didn't go because I had things I wanted to get done around here, but I wish I had thought to take a picture of Troy with everyone too.  Keith left for Austin after lunch.

Tomorrow Reid has his appointments with the stem cell doctor and the cardiologist.  We should know more then about when he'll be admitted to the hospital.

I haven't been doing too much blog reading lately.  If I have a few extra minutes I usually read the first few blogs that pop up on my Reading List.  I hope to buy either a laptop or an IPad for when Reid's in the hospital and recovering afterwards and will try and catch up then.  If anyone has an opinion as to which would be better I'd appreciate your input.  My thought is that the IPad is easier to lug around, but the laptop would do more.  Thanks...

Friday, January 28, 2011




Yes, today is Reid's 35th birthday and how time flies.  It's hard to believe.  And his brothers are even older.  Where have all the years gone?

For the first time this week he doesn't have to be down at the hospital today.  Yesterday they changed out the large catheter that was needed for the stem cell extraction for a smaller one.  Today he has the day off (and the weekend too) before he goes back on Monday to see the stem cell doctor and the cardiologist.

Keith is here from Austin and we'll have a little family get together.  Chicken is on the menu for tonight.  (It's what I happen to have in the refrigerator.)  And now I better get busy and get a little something done around here.  I hear the vacuum calling.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

4.8 Million Stem Cells!

Reid found out today that they harvested 4.8 million stem cells yesterday.  They shoot for 5 million, but since he was so close they felt it wasn't necessary to try and get more today.  YEA! 

Because they got enough yesterday he didn't need the Neuprogen shots this morning.  I am so relieved.  He probably is too, but he's too nice to say it.  He kept assuring me that I was doing just fine and he couldn't tell the difference between me doing it and a real nurse doing it.  (Actually, the nurse in the clinic told me that he told her I was doing just fine and since I wasn't there he didn't need to say it.)  We still have four doses left and Reid was told to hang on to it because he'll need it after transplant.  Dang!

He had a blood draw today and all his numbers looked OK except for his magnesium.  They wrote him a prescription for that and we picked it up before we left.  He's getting some energy back.  Today he walked around the hospital and for the first time in a while he didn't need the wheelchair.

Tomorrow he has a 1:00 PM appointment to have the large catheter that they needed for harvesting the stem cells removed and a smaller one inserted in it's place.  We've been told that they just insert it through the large one and then pull that one out.  They don't waste any time getting the larger one out and he'll be glad to see it go since it's been uncomfortable all along.  Keith arrives in the morning from Austin for a few days and he'll drive us down there.  I was a little concerned because Reid's never gotten out of Infusion Therapy quickly and if there was too much of a delay I'd be worried about trying to drive home in the dark again.

I'm not sure if they'll want him back for more blood draws or if they'll wait until his appointments on Monday with the stem cell doctor and the cardiologist.  It would be nice if he didn't have to go on Friday since it's his 35th birthday.  Not that he's up to celebrating, but a break from the hospital routine would be a nice present.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stem Cell Collection

Today was the first day of the stem cell harvest.  Reid was hooked up to the apheresis machine around 9:25 this morning and was finished around 12:30.  This is the apheresis machine with Reid's blood being taken in, stem cells removed, and then the blood returned to him.  (He chose not to be in the picture.)

And here are the stem cells hanging in the bag to the right.

After this he had to have more platelets transfused.  I was kind of surprised that he still needed another transfusion today.  Hopefully, that will be it for a while.

Tomorrow morning he has to call at 8:00 to see if they got enough stem cells today for the transplant.  They probably didn't since we were told it normally takes anywhere from 3 to 5 days, but they said to call before he comes down.  Then we'll know whether or not he still needs the Neuprogen shots.  He'll continue to have them until they have enough stem cells.  He'll be glad when he doesn't need them any longer because they cause bone pain and he's been having terrible headaches from them.  Even if they have enough stem cells he still has to be down there for a bood draw, so we'll be making the trip again tomorrow.

Today the sun came out so I went outside for a few minutes while Reid was hooked up to the machine.  The press is being shown some Texas hospitality.  They now have all the conveniences of home.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's Time To Harvest The Stem Cells

On Sunday Jim took Reid down to MD Anderson for a blood draw at 7:00 AM.  It was determined that he needed more platelets and he was given a 3:30 PM appointment for the transfusion. 

They came home for a few hours between appointments and left the house at 2:30 PM.  On the drive down to the hospital Reid developed a nose bleed which continued during the platelet transfusion.  Finally, the nurse said they'd give it a half hour to stop and then they'd call the doctor.  Fortunately, it finally stopped and they were able to return home in the evening.  Nose bleeds are not unusual when the platelets are low since it's platelets that help the blood to clot.

Today Reid had to be down there early for a blood draw, but because of the rainy weather it took us an hour and fifteen minutes to get down there.  That meant we had to wait in the Fast Track Clinic until they got the results.  The good news is that the test they use to determine if it's time to start harvesting stem cells was at 29 which is very good.  It needs to be at 10, so he was quite a bit over.  Unfortunately, his hemoglobin was low probably because of yesterday's nose bleed, so he needed another blood transfusion.  All his other numbers were going up which is also good news.  It means his body is recovering from this latest round of chemo.

He had a 2:00 PM appointment for the transfusion, but they hadn't started yet by 3:00 PM, so I had to call Jim at work to come down and relieve me so I could drive home while it was still light.  Darn these old eyes.

Tomorrow he needs to be back down at 7:30 AM for a blood draw and then they will start harvesting the stem cells which involves hooking him up to a machine that sucks the blood out, removes the stem cells, and then returns the blood to him.  This is called apheresis.  They will have to do this over a period of days...usually around four in order to get enough stem cells to freeze.  All of this is done on an outpatient basis.  This diagram probably explains it better.

Things are moving along now.  Hopefully, the beginning of next week he'll see the stem cell doctor again and the date will be set for him to be admitted to the hospital for more chemo and the return of his stem cells.  We'll know more at that time.

I'll try and post updates as time allows.

We noticed today that the reporters were still camped out in the medical center to cover Congresswoman Gifford's recovery only now they have tents and someone brought in Port-A-Potties for them.  I guess they plan to stay for the duration.  I heard she might have had a minor setback and needs to stay in Intensive Care a while longer.  Hopefully, she'll be moved to Memorial Hermann's rehab hospital shortly.

Thanks again for your support and prayers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Busy Day Down In The Medical Center

Reid had to be down at MD Anderson this morning for a blood draw and then an appointment at 11:00 in the Fast Track Clinic with the Advanced Practice Nurse.  We arrived around 9:15 and only got home around 8:30 this evening.

When we arrived in the clinic the nurse commented on the fact that he was still walking because he needed two units of blood and platelets today.  He actually walked from the waiting room to the exam room, but we had used a wheelchair from the parking garage to the clinic.  Anyway, they told us to go eat lunch and come back at 1:30 for the transfusions.  It took hours and it was a good thing that Jim had off from work today because I no longer drive after dark with my vision.  The need for transfusions wasn't anything to be alarmed about.  It's to be expected with the chemo he's been given and it's why we'll be back down at MD Anderson on Sunday so they can check his blood again.  Reid said he did feel better after the transfusions.

I read somewhere that MD Anderson uses more blood than any other hospital in the Texas Medical Center which is pretty amazing when you consider there are two Level One Trauma Centers there.

While we waited Jim and I went outside to watch the media circus.  Congresswoman Gifford was arriving in the Medical Center today and the crews were camped out.  I didn't have my camera so I took these with my cell phone.

In the next picture that's the parking garage on the left where we usually park and you can see the walkway to MD Anderson that goes over the road and into the clinics.


Then we went around the corner and they had the news crews kind of corralled between a couple of barricades on the sidewalk.  The Memorial Hermann rehab facility is located across the street from where they're all standing.  It's my understanding that the Congresswoman was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital's Neuro-Science Intensive Care Unit a couple of blocks away.  That's the same Intensive Care Unit Reid was in before his spinal surgery a little over a year ago.  I know she'll be getting wonderful care.  In this picture the tall building in the background is part of MD Anderson too.

I'm just glad we didn't have trouble getting a parking space in the garage.  I was a little concerned when I first saw all the activity.

Then we got home and there was a message from Sears saying to call them because they wanted to reschedule the service call for my dryer.  I made the appointment this past Wednesday and the earliest they could come was this coming Monday.  Reid has to be down at MD Anderson on Monday too, so Jim made arrangements to go into work late and be here for the repair call.  To make a long story short I let them know I wasn't happy and now they're going to come tomorrow between 1:00 and 5:00.  I'm just glad they're not coming in the morning because I intend to sleep late.  :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nurse Betty???

The days seem to fly by and I know it's been a while since I posted an update on Reid's progress.  I always seem to fall behind when he's hospitalized and then it takes me a while to catch up.

Reid was released from the hospital last Friday after his third round of ICE chemo.  This chemo has been quite different from the ABVD chemo he had last year.  With the ABVD he would feel rotten for a week and then the second week he'd start feeling better and better each day until it was time to go back for another treatment.  With the ICE chemo there is no recovery period.  He has relentless fatigue and the nausea comes in waves.  He might be able to eat one day and then have trouble the next day.  The last couple of days have been pretty good as far as eating goes.

The next step will be harvesting the stem cells for the stem cell transplant.  Much to our surprise we learned this week that I would have to learn to give him injections of Neupogen...two each day.  YIKES!  (Did I ever tell you that I'm a little phobic about needles?)  One of the nurses down at MD Anderson assured me that they've been able to make nurses out of lots of people.  Other Bettys have gone before me...

The Neupogen will help trick Reid's body into producing more stem cells than it normally would.  They'll keep checking his blood on a regular basis and when there are enough stem cells in his peripheral blood they will harvest them.  One of the nurses gave me a crash course on giving an injection this past Wednesday.  She demonstrated by giving him the first shot and I gave him the second one.  Thursday and today I was on my own.  So far, it's gone well.  Reid said it feels just like when the real nurses do it.  The ultimate compliment!  Of course, he could do it himself, but he doesn't want to do and I can't say that I blame him.  I know diabetics do it all the time, but since this is a temporary thing he really doesn't have to learn.

I watched a bunch of You Tube videos.  Everything is on You Tube nowadays including people giving subcutaneous injections.  You know how they say people become insensitive to violence by watching violence all the time?  I decided to see if that would work with injections.  I watched those darn videos over and over again.  Besides, I want my son well again.  If they told me I had to turn him into a voodoo doll or a pin cushion to get him well I'd do it.

Tomorrow he has an appointment in the Fast Track Clinic and we'll see how things are going so far.  There's a good chance he'll need a platelet transfusion again.

Meanwhile, with being so vulnerable to infection right now he's been staying away from his cat Ash.  However, this afternoon Ash climbed up on his lap for a few minutes and he let him stay.  He just makes sure he washes his hands or uses hand sanitizer when he touches one of the animals.

And I managed to get a few pictures of Ash's siblings today.  You can find their story in a previous post here.  It's hard to believe they were feral at one time.  They live mostly in our backyard and the garage and have become very friendly.  Their mother comes by every few days.  I know someone on the next block also feeds her, so I don't worry when I don't see her.  She is still feral and will scratch if I get too close.  I'm glad I managed to catch her and have her fixed so there won't be any more kittens!

This is Atticus.  He waits by the backdoor hoping I'll come out with more cat threats.

And this is Scout.  She's getting a little chubby and I'm trying to cut back on the number of cat treats she gets now.

This is sweet Jem.  He doesn't even like cat treats.  In fact, he has no interest in them whatsoever.  He comes over because he wants me to pet him.  I initially thought I'd never be able to tame him because he wasn't interested in treats, but one day he surprised me by walking over with the others.  The first time I pet him it freaked him out, but then he eventually came back for more.

It's getting really cold tonight (for us anyway), but we have cat beds for them in the garage.  They hang out in there when it's cold or rainy.

Thanks again for your support and prayers.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Moving Forward...

I have a few extra minutes this evening and thought I'd better get an update posted before Reid gets admitted to the hospital again on Tuesday for another round of the ICE chemo.  We've been keeping busy lately with numerous trips down to MD Anderson.

Since I last posted Reid had appointments with the stem cell doctor and his oncologist.  We received the results of his latest tests and scans.  The stem cell doctor said his response to the chemo has been terrific.  His oncologist called it good news.  They are prepared to move ahead with the stem cell transplant.  Reid said he isn't going to get too excited because he heard that last year with the first chemo, but we are very hopeful at this point.

This past Wednesday they implanted a central venous catheter and removed the chemo port.  They had some difficulty inserting the catheter because of scar tissue from the chemo port and he had to have another platelet transfusion for the procedure.  We had originally thought we'd be down there for a few hours, but we ended up being there a lot longer.

Jim and I attended classes to learn how to take care of the catheter.  We were required to take two classes.  Jim took the test and passed so we could get the necessary supplies.  (You can't get the supplies unless one of the caretakers passes. I volunteered Jim.)  In the classes we had to get used to calling Reid our patient and ourselves caretakers.  All new terminology for us. 

The classes are an excellent idea.  The risk of a blood born infection with a depressed immune system are great and we learned how to care for the catheter as safely as possible.  I'm thankful that we live close enough to MD Anderson that we can run right back if we have any problems.  I heard people in our classes talking about going home to places like Florida and South Dakota where they wouldn't be able to return in a hurry.

We returned to MD Anderson yesterday for Reid's bandage change.  The first bandage change is always done by the nurses in the Infusion Department.  The bandage and caps must be changed once a week, but since we live in the area we can bring Reid back to them for bandage changes.  It's pretty involved...not like changing a band-aid.  We still learned the procedure in case it ever gets wet and we can't get down there right away.  Meanwhile, we'll flush the catheter with Heparin every day to keep it from clotting.

Tomorrow he has appointments to have blood drawn in the morning and with a Physician's Assistant in the Fast Track Clinic in the afternoon.  Assuming all his counts are at an acceptable level he'll be admitted on Tuesday for the chemo.

After this chemo they will begin to prepare him for harvesting the stem cells.

At this point in the treatment Reid is extremely fatigued.  More and more he's using a wheel chair when we go down to the hospital.  He just can't do much walking at all.  When he walks from his room to the kitchen he's exhausted.  His coloring is very pale and he no longer has to shave.  I can see where this chemo is much more difficult than the ABVD chemo he had originally.

I heard from Troy yesterday and he thought he might have a sinus infection.  I told him not to come around here and to get to a doctor and get better in case we need his help.  Meanwhile, I continue to keep the hand sanitizer companies in business.  Everywhere you look there's a bottle sitting on a table, counter, in the car, etc.  We don't need anyone sick right now!

You might not hear from me again for a while, but don't be alarmed.  It just means I'm busy running back and forth to the hospital and too tired in the evening to post.  Thanks again for your prayers.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Time For Christmas Treats??

In our house it is!

While sitting in a waiting room for one of Reid's appointments I started thumbing through a magazine I had never seen before.  It was the December 2010 issue of All You magazine.   I came across a recipe for Peppermint Bark Trees and decided it would be fun to try and make them.  Some of you might have read my earlier post about what happened to the tin of Peppermint Bark my sister sent this Christmas when our dog discovered it under the tree.  Then my friend Karen jumped in and sent a replacement tin for the humans in the family which is now long gone.  We love the stuff! 

I had jotted down the recipe on a piece of scrap paper and then bought everything I would need a few days before Christmas, but never found the time to make them.  Today Jim took Reid down to the hospital for a platelet transfusion and I had a little time to putter around and play catch up on a few things.

Here are my Peppermint Bark Trees!  I finally made them today.

And here's where you can find the recipe from the December issue of All You magazine.  They seem to have all their recipes online which is nice.  I bought a Wilton mini Christmas tree pan.  It's one of those green silicone pans and I found mine at Joanne's.  I found one online to show you  here.  There were 24 sections and I found that I had enough of the white chocolate melts to make all 24 even though the recipe said it would make 18.  I needed 2 cups of the dark cocoa melts though instead of the 1 1/2 cups called for in the recipe.

So, Merry Christmas 2011 a little early!