As I write this, I am waiting for my immune system to grow back after having it all but wiped out in an attempt to control my multiple sclerosis. The treatment that I have just undergone -- a series of five daily IVs, with another three to follow in 12 months -- was approved by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in March. The criteria state that because of the risks involved, a patient must have “failed” at least two previous treatments in order to be eligible for Lemtrada. I’ve “failed” four, each more aggressive than the last. The daily self-administered injections, the oral capsules, the monthly IVs -- none of them lasted for longer than a couple of years. Lemtrada, my neurologist tells me, should “reboot” the immune system that has turned its firepower against the body it is supposed to protect.
Rebooting the immune system carries risks, as you might expect. I was signed on to a patient monitoring program called Bloodwatch, a name that sounds ominous -- although to a Buffy-tragic like me also rather cool. Bloodwatch comes with a mobile phone app and a schedule of monthly blood tests from now until July 2019, with helpful text message reminders as the day draws near. It also has an alarm system in place if the results look dodgy, which I got to see in action last week when it sent out an URGENT text message to me, my teenage daughter/next of kin and my neurologist to let me know that it had detected “an important abnormal blood count” and that I should seek immediate medical attention. After another round of blood tests, I was sent home to ponder whether given the likelihood of at least one repeat performance from Bloodwatch at some point between now and 2019, I ought to invest in a phone with a more reliable battery life.