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The human experiment: My first day at clinical trial
August 1, 2014.

This is a recount of my first day at clinical trials

Monday, July 28, 2014

H“Hi, Mr. Alvarez.  My name is Sammy and I will be your clinical nurse for the research.”  Reality hit me that I am now going to start a new phase in finding a cure for my cancer. My mind was pre-occupied by the events leading to this moment.

Earlier that day.  The clock reads 4:30 am and I am awake.  I need to get to the hospital before 7:00 am and it is a 20-mile drive from my house.  It is normally an easy drive but you have to pass through downtown to get from the north side, where I live, to the south side of Chicago.  I use to have a habit of going to the gym first before going for my chemo sessions but I don’t have time.

After a quick shower and breakfast, my wife and I leave for UofC Medicine.  We get there early but there are already other patients in the waiting area.  They look at ease with their surroundings, while I take in all the new environment.  Some patients in the waiting area are wearing protective masks, others are pale, glassy-eyed, no hair, and just look unhealthy.  I know that look.  Each of us have their own state of mortal temporariness; each, also, prefer not to be in this situation.

“So, Mr. Alvarez, today you will be having this new treatment.”  Sammy started to explain.  I was given a room with a bed after checked my vital signs and weight.  The staff is very efficient and courteous, like Sammy.  I learned later he is from Ghana and has been with the hospital for 16 years.  I am in safe hands.

“During the treatment you will be closely monitored.  There will be several EKG and blood tests before, during, and after your infusion.  The infusion will normally take two hours but you will be ask to stay longer so we can take more blood test and monitor you.  Is this your first time to undergo a trial?”

“Yes.”  I replied with a little anxiety in my voice.

This is a new experience for me: a human guinea pig.  I am participant Number 5.  Previous to this, the drug was only tested in mice and monkeys.  I suppose there is always the first time for anybody and it is too late to back out now.

Assisting Sammy is Saray, a sweet and motherly clinical technician, who tells me her son’s birthday is exactly like mine.  She has contagious smile.  She started with the EKG (the first of several) test, then proceeded to insert an IV line in my arm to get all the blood they would need during the treatment.  My port, located in my chest, was also accessed and with that we were ready.

Sammy started me off with three-drug “happy cocktail” combination, which is familiar to me.  The cocktail includes: Benadryl to put me to sleep, steroids to prevent any allergic reaction, and Pepcid to settle my stomach or more like to prevent vomiting.  I felt the effect of Benadryl lulling me to sleep but I held off to experience the first few drops of the trial drug.

As I took in the drug my senses were primed to any allergic reaction from the drug.  My wife holding my hands, looked for any changes in me like rash or discomfort.  My vital signs stayed normal as the minutes ticked by and finally I was out.  I was aware of my surrounding but too groggy to wake up.  After two hours, the infusion was done a post infusion EKG test was done, then more vital sign checks and blood tests.

They got so much blood from me that you would think Dracula is just outside my room sipping blood mimosa.  Well the idea is to monitor the chemo toxicity in my body to determine the safe and effective level to administer the new drug.  It was a long day at the hospital due to all the blood test requirements but I was glad it all went well.  I was given instructions to report any changes or side-effects I experience from the drug.  If any severe reaction happens, call 911.  Whatever.

For the next cycle, I am sure the dosage will be increased to see how I respond.  Maybe next time I will come in as a mice or in a monkey suit with a number 5.  Ha!

Zzzzz.... knocked out during the treatment

Zzzzz…. knocked out during the treatment

Cheers.

P.S.  I recovered from the first chemo cycle with only hiccups as a side-effect.  I started my own experiment too to see if I can train for a marathon while doing the trial.  Goal this weekend, another 10 miles.

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