Monday, August 18, 2008

Just Like Professional Cyclists

My red cell count, the hematocrit part, the part that carries oxygen around the body to my tissues and my brain, was slightly low today, 10.7 when the lowest recommended score is 11.2. This happened the last time I was on chemo, and it's pretty easy to deal with. It's also, considering my current oxygen issues, pretty necessary to deal with. I want my blood to carry as much oxygen as I can possibly make it carry. There's a drug called Epotin which stimulates red cell growth in the body.

If you've heard of Epotin, or simply Epo, it's probably from watching races like the Tour de France in the last couple years, where cyclists were giving themselves controversial shots to make their blood thicker so they could push harder and longer. The effect achieved is not unlike the effect that marathoners are going for by training high up in the mountains. In a recent New Yorker, young American runner Ryan Hall, from Big Bear Lake California (7,000 ft), was featured as an example of this phenomenon: your body learns how to make more hematocrit at higher elevations where the oxygen is thinner, thus, essentially, thickening your blood. When you return to sea level, it takes some time for your body to readjust to the denser oxygen, so in the meantime your muscles and brain are getting the essential element much more efficiently than those who don't have the option of training high.

Anyway, I thought about it today—did I want to start training for a marathon and camp at, say, Sunrise on Mt Rainier to be high enough, and thicken my blood that way? Or did I just want to go with the pharmaceutical (even more expensive for a shot than Neupogen is, so I've heard) that would take 15 seconds to complete? Well, I chose the shot. Sometimes I'm lazy that way. I'll let you know next week what the results are.


Note: It's been pointed out that it's actually probably the hemoglobin part of my blood that's low. I suspected it might be, but I forgot to get a copy of my blood test results to verify my facts and, having been a fact-checker for six months several years ago, it's not something I enjoyed enough to want to continue doing it in my own work (although I think for the most part I'm pretty accurate). Thank you, careful Lurker, for the heads up!

1 comment:

Robert said...

When Kate was in the hospital following Eleanor's birth, they were monitoring her hematocrit pretty closely. When it was announced that it had fallen below 20 was when my Uncle Peter (an anesthesiologist who happened to be visiting at the time) turned suddenly white in a way which made ME turn suddenly white (Kate herself had been white for two days straight already), and when the staff rushed Kate through a quick transfusion. So perhaps the blood component which is not to fall below 11.2 is, in fact, hemoglobin . . . But I've NEVER been a fact checker, so don't take my word for it!