Warning: This post was difficult for me to write due to the subject being so close to my heart. I apologize in advance if this is not edited to my normal quality as I had a difficult time reading it through. As well, if there is anything you feel I have missed, please let me know. I am planning a part 2 for transplants to include more information I gathered over the last few years.
The first thing to remember about transplants is that every transplant is different and every transplant patient has a different experience. Both transplant and recovery can vary greatly from patient to patient.
Patients who require transplants usually find out about their need because they become very ill. In fact, it can be obvious from looking at the patient that there is something wrong. They go to the doctor because of these symptoms and are given tests to find out the problem. Once the doctor figures out why the symptoms are present in the patient, they may refer the patient to a specialist. It may be the family doctor or the specialist who diagnoses the specific issue that requires transplant.
SO’s illness presented itself by his lack of red cells. This meant that SO had no energy and tended to sleep all day. SO also had platelet issues where he had trouble healing from bruises and cuts. Another issue which came up was a lack of white-cells which meant that SO had to limit contact with people and wear a medical mask if he went out in public.
SO had gone to his family doctor because of his lack of energy. The doctor had SO get his blood work tested. Once his doctor received the results, he called SO and told him to get to the hospital immediately. SO was then hospitalized at the University of Alberta Hospital for weeks before they diagnosed him with MDS.
All transplants have different time frames. Some transplants require months of medications and tests to prepare the patient while other transplants may only require a few weeks of pre-transplant testing.
Some transplant patients find themselves on waiting lists for years before they receive a transplant. Transplant waiting lists usually go by need rather than time spent on the list. If a patient’s need changes they may find they are pushed to the top of the waiting list.
SO had been diagnosed with aplastic anemia about ten years before his transplant. At that point, he was placed on a waiting list to receive a bone marrow transplant which he ended up not needing at that time. However, when SO was diagnosed with MDS he was also given a maximum of one year to live without a transplant. This placed SO near the top of the bone marrow transplant waiting list and he received his transplant about six months after being diagnosed.
Transplant patients are required to go through intense medical testing to find out if they are healthy enough for transplant. If the patient is found to have other health conditions which may impact the transplant then the transplant doctor may require that those conditions are dealt with before they can authorize the transplant.
When SO received his transplant he went through months of testing. Some of the tests he had to take were pulmonary, electrocardiogram and dental exams. His transplant was almost rescheduled due to the dental exam which required some extra treatments.
Due to the health of patients going into the transplant, there may be different transplant options available. This is dependent on the transplant that the patient is receiving for instance bone marrow patients have options between cells or marrow. They also have a choice between donor cells or previously extracted cells from themselves.
As well, some transplants require surgery while other transplants do not.
SO’s bone marrow transplant used stem cells from a donor’s bone marrow. The transplant itself looked like a transfusion of blood rather than a surgery.
There is so much more information that I could include without giving proper justice to the enormity of transplants. I would encourage everyone who is interested in the subject of transplants to do their research. While these links will help, I would highly suggest finding the closest transplant hospital and speaking with some of the people there. There are some patients (such as my SO) who love to talk about their experience and help others understand what it is like.