May 19, 2012

Washington DC, the sequel

Our second trip to Washington DC (for Jeff to donate stem cells for his sister) has been full of surprises. The first surprise presented itself even before we arrived in DC. If you know me at all, you know that I love Mexican food. Imagine my surprise at finding one of my favorite restaurants from out West -- Abuelo's -- in Roanoke, Virginia, and right at dinner time! Just a little thing, but nice!

 On Tuesday afternoon, we headed downtown to try to visit one of the many free museums. I use the term free loosely here; the high price of parking definitely offsets free admission. Thankfully, the Air and Space Museum was open longer that day, and we stayed through closing. Jeff and Jared were especially excited to be just a few feet from vintage aircraft they had only read about.

After the museum (and after dark), we wandered down to the Washington Monument...

and the Vietnam War Memorial Wall...

and the Lincoln Memorial.

We wrapped up the evening with food from the best Five Guys Burgers and Fries we've ever enjoyed.

Wednesday was spent up at NIH, as Jeff signed his consent forms and we took the kids up to visit with their Uncle Tim and Aunt Michele. Michele was up for a walk about then, so we did a couple of laps around the floor before finding a place to sit and visit.

Thursday was the beginning of the donor process for Jeff, as we reported to Apheresis at NIH to donate leukocytes (white blood cells). These will be held for Michele in case they are needed after the bone marrow transplant. After prep, the process took about three hours and required Jeff to keep his left arm still and straight the whole time. I thought Jeff did really well, and the Lord was so good to provide us with a Christian nurse. Once he was released from apheresis, we reported to the clinic to broaden our horizons. A sweet Bulgarian nurse taught us how to give Jeff injections of neupogen. This is the medicine they call "The G"; it stimulates Jeff's bone marrow production to provide more stem cells for donation. Once the injection process was explained, we decided it would be simpler for me to give Jeff the injections than for him to inject himself. Because the dose is so large, I'm actually giving him two shots each morning. Talk about a stretch! It takes both of us to get through all of the steps and keep things sterile (and we're both the types to basically pass out at the sight of blood and/or needles), but we're getting it done. (Aren't you glad I didn't include any pictures here?)

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Andrews AFB Air Show was scheduled for this weekend, with a special day for military families on Friday. Mom and Dad took us to the flight line where we enjoyed seeing more vintage and modern aircraft, as well as watching some amazing aerial feats. The highlight of the day had to be Blue Angels demonstration -- absolutely amazing!

The best surprise of the week was learning that Michele would have an eight-hour pass to leave NIH and come to the Fisher House on Saturday. A couple of military journalists scheduled a video interview with Tim and Michele (and a brief cameo appearance by Jeff). Tony and Stacy were very kind and spent most of the day with us as we shared a family cookout and watched the Blue Angels again, this time from the front porch of the Fisher House. However, before lunch, Colonel Rizer (Wing Commander for Andrews AFB) came by the pick up Tim, Michele, and Jeff to visit the Fisher House airplane which had just arrived for the air show. After introductions, he invited the rest of us to come along, too. Jared joined the others in "the white top", while AnnaKate and I followed along in our little CRV. It was fun to follow along as the Colonel drove with sirens wailing -- all traffic stopped to let us pass, and we saw some very snappy salutes. He drove us right out to the flight line, right in the middle of the crowd, right up to the airplane. The base photographers were waiting for us and began snapping pictures immediately. Passersby took note and began taking pictures, as well! Afterward, when Colonel Rizer returned us to the Fisher House, he presented both Michele and Jeff with his Commander's Coin.

It was a very special day, and we are so thankful to have spent it with Michele. but the days ahead are full of challenges. Michele still has hurdles to overcome as she prepares for the transplant process. Tim faces the daily challenges of faithfully caring for Michele and working with the doctors to manage her care. Jeff faces challenges over the next several days of injections, side effects, and the five to eight hour stem cell donation process. And Mom and Dad have the challenge of walking alongside Tim in caring for Michele while facing health issues of their own. I hope you'll join me in praying for them all in this process. As Michele's doctor so wisely put it, we can do everything right in the transplant process, but in the end it's up to God. Amen.

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