Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is a medical procedure that is designed to destroy or weaken damaged stem cells and tissues in the body that cause various diseases in the blood or in the immune system, and replace such stem cells with a new one to restore healthy function. This process is often used to treat different kinds of diseases including leukemia, severe aplastic anemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Unfortunately, there are several risks associated with bone marrow transplant, some of which can be fatal. My experience with a bone marrow transplant is a good one, although there are some challenges and stressful times.
What I don’t like about undergoing BMT to treat my acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is the fact that I had to undergo induction chemotherapy and take several medications. Not to mention that I was not allowed to receive many visitors. However, the medical team who is in-charge of my operation was wonderful. Weeks before my scheduled operation, they have already informed with about the things that I should expect during and after the operation.
What to Expect From Bone Marrow Transplant
Several tests will be conducted to ensure that the patient’s major organs are functioning well to prevent problems during the operation. These tests may include heart ultrasound, electrocardiogram (ECG), lung function test, and blood work. Patients should also be emotionally prepared for the operation.
- Transplant Process
The transplant team will allocate some time to discuss to you the details of the procedure as well as the possible complications that you may experience. Basically, you need to undergo high-dose chemotherapy treatment for 1-5 days, depending on your illness. After the treatment is finished, the stem cells taken from your donor will then be transplanted to your body through re-infusion. This process can take 30 minutes to 3 hours.
- Post-Procedure and Recovery
Antibiotics and pain medication will be administered to the patient after the procedure to avoid infection and relieve the pain after the anesthesia injected during the transplant wears off. Frequent blood tests will also be conducted to monitor and determine whether the new stem cell are accepted or rejected by the body. Following the procedure, your immune system can be compromised. For this reason, good hygiene and healthy lifestyle should always be observed.
Recovery from bone marrow transplant can take several months. There are several things that you can do to help yourself have a successful transplant with less risk of infections and better quality of life. These include preparing ahead for the hospital stay, establishing a support system, managing stress, maintaining proper nutrition, and setting landmark for yourself.
My experience with a bone marrow transplant is similar to other patients but different in some ways. My life somehow changed after my operation. I know that my life can never be the same. That is why I learned to accept to move forward with hope, determination, and commitment to improve my life in every possible way that I know, be thankful for my second life, and be ready for whatever that awaits me.