"Our Little Trooper"

"Our Little Trooper"
"Let me live, that I may praise you!" Psalm 119:175

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Every single cell of it!"

Tuesday was not just a big day, it was a huge day!

Rowan knew the plans for the day: labs, platelets, Lasix, skin biopsy, stitches, culture, hearing test, pre-meds, and finally...his t-cell infusion.

He felt good about everything.  He had his friends wall inspiring him...

He chose his friend Christa as the one he would fight in honor of...

And he had me there cheering him on as well...

Around 1:00 pm, they arrived!  My frozen t-cells arrived in a little silver cryo-vac capsule.  It looked like something from a science fiction movie...

They showed me the tiny little bag, of smoking t-cells...

So cool (no pun intended)!

There was so much excitement buzzing around the room, and the hallway too.  You could feel the energy bouncing off the walls.  Rowan was about to be a part of something they had not ever done before...not with t-cells that had been manipulated and modified this way, or given at this stage.  It was so cool to be a part of.  The nurse said they had all been reading and re-reading, consulting and confirming, making calls back and forth all morning, making sure they followed the protocol perfectly.

I asked Rowan if he was ready to complete stage 3, the third infusion of my cells that he has received over the past 33 days.  He said, "Yes, and whatever happens, it's going to be okay because I have God and Jesus right by my side."

So it began! They started out by checking all of his vitals...

Then they brought the t-cells to temperature, mixed them in plasmalyte, and connected the tubing to Rowan's line...

The doctors had warned us about the horrible smell that would fill the room on t-cell transplant day, because of the preservative that is used to keep these cells viable.  Keep in mind, these are the cells that I donated through plasma-pheresis way back in mid-July when I had my first line placed.  They have been away at a lab being treated, processed and genetically modified this whole time! 

Someone had recommended that we have some fresh oranges for Rowan to smell, to help him with the nausea caused by the preservative.  I got some from the cafeteria that morning and cut them in a tub that I placed on his bed...

Rowan had his own idea though, which really impressed the nurses.  He asked me if I could spray his pillow and the bed with my Dolce & Gabana Light Blue perfume:)  We all got a kick out of that.

Then the cells started infusing.  The whole infusion only took 13 minutes.  They didn't want to waste a single, hard-earned t-cell though, so they added more plasmalyte to the bag, and let every last drop drip through the tubing...

Rowan watched intently, as every last drop went in...

"Good to the last drop"...

I asked him how he felt immediately afterwards and he said, "I just feel so thankful! And I feel like it's going to be a great day today."

He immediately wanted to write a note to his nurse that day, thanking her for her part.  Here is what he wrote her on the back of the card...

It was the sweetest thing ever.  She went to the corner of the room and cried.  She had to leave the room for a few minutes to get her composure back, before coming back in to take this picture with Rowan.  She told him thank you too, and how she loved this part of her job so much, being a part of these ground breaking new technological advances.  They both will never be the same...we are all sure about that.

A few hours later, Rowan had a gift and card ready for one of his favorite doctors too, who has spent the past 6 weeks leading rounds on his case every morning.  He asked a nurse to page her so she could come to his room.  He gave her his gift and card, which she loved, and they hugged.  Then she went on to tell Rowan how many lives he was changing at the hospital.  They had just had a very difficult, sad, day on the floor apparently and she told Rowan how much it helped to come see him at the end of what was a really bad day.  She told him that if she ever felt like giving up, all she had to do was think about him and how he dedicated each of his hard days to someone else, and that would give her the strength to go on.  She told him that she wasn't the only one he had affected, that they all talked about how powerful it was to look at the photos at the foot of his bed each day.  They have never had a patient do anything like that before, and it really made an impression on the staff.  She also told him how impressed they all were with his manners and acts of gratitude, and that when she had children of her own she wanted Rowan to teach them how to appreciate everything like he does.  It was a very humbling conversation.

I had a similar one in the hallway earlier that day too, with the doctor who did Rowan's skin biopsy.  He passed me in the hall when I ran down to grab food on a different floor of the hospital.  As we passed, he called out to me, "Mrs. Windham" and I stopped.  He went on to tell me what a special child we had raised, saying "I just love him" and "I can't say I've ever been thanked for performing a procedure like that on a patient before" (because Rowan had thanked him the moment he finished, and again as he left the room). 

I'm so proud of how this little boy is handling all of this.  He has been positive, understanding, gracious, and grateful to every single staff member that he has encountered...from CNA to nurse, from fellow to attending, from housekeeping to maintenance...he thanks EVERYONE for EVERYTHING!

Rowan also got a visit from one of his favorite nurses from back home in Texas, who now works here at this hospital.  She heard everyone talking about Rowan getting his t-cells, and she just had to come congratulate him too.  He just loves seeing her familiar face!

After his bath that night, Rowan stopped and admired the note I wrote on the glass door to his room 33 days earlier, on the initial transplant day.  He said, "Thanks for saying yes again Mom".

There was a package in his room that had been delivered earlier in the day.  When he opened it, Rowan was so excited to see it was from Zoe. 

One of the special items inside was a little stuffed white blood cell, which Rowan squeezed tight to his heart.

Saying, "I love my life, and everything in it...every single cell of it!"

T-cell Transplant Tuesday was definitely life-changing... for me, for Rowan, for his nurses, his doctors, and hopefully for many others to come, as the research from this protocol hopefully helps make many positive changes in the transplant world.

I hope as you read this, it changes your life even a little too... I hope it reminds you to: "love your life...every single cell of it!"


  1. Carrie and Rowan,
    I have been following Rowan's journey for some time and continue to pray for you both. I typically don't comment but reading your blog post today compelled me to write and tell you how amazing you both are. Rowan you are my hero and Carrie as a mother I can't even imagine how proud you must be of this amazing little guy. I pray that God continues to watch over and protect you and that Rowan is completely healed.

  2. I am very happy for Rowan, he has changed my perspective of life, always live your life to the fullest. Rowan I love everything about you, you are truly God's little warrior. You've been really strong warrior through out every process. Love your attitude & yes you are an amazing child, you are truly God's blessed gift to your Mom. Thank you Rowan, for sharing your life with all of us,you have changed my life and attitude about everything. Life can be short if you don't live it to the fullest. Gods plan for all of us is always a life lesson to be learned. I wish you the best of everything in your life. Mom, I congratulate you, you have been the bravest warrior I've seen, you have taught this Mom, not to give up on your children. And there is always faith in life. Thank you for keeping us in the loop with Rowan. Speedy recovery Rowan. Always in my prayers Rowan & your Mom.

  3. Bless you bless you bless you Carrie. What a very special mother, daughter, and wife you are.

  4. He is sooooooo very sweet and a very positive young man. I'm very excited that you were able to the cell transplant for him.

    Much love from Hallettsville, Tx and
    Kristin Ckodre.

  5. You and Rowan are such amazing spirits! Moved beyond explanation and definitely affected and changed. Although I do not know you personally, I am very vested in yours and Rowan's journey. May you both be forever blessed and may this day be a beautiful memory that your family gets to celebrate for years to come. Rowan you are my hero! The way you look at life, at your tender young age, with so much wisdom, faith and hope is admirable and inspiring. Love to you and your sweet mom. May you continue to be healed by God's grace and may His mercy always shine on you.