‘This takes a lot of pressure off Gold Coast patients’
Last month Gold Coast Health launched a stem cell transplant service at the Gold Coast University Hospital. Ann Scholz, our Support Services Coordinator for the area, shed some light on what the new transplant unit can mean for local blood cancer patients
An autologous transplant uses your own blood-forming stem cells, which are collected in advance from the bloodstream and then returned later, as a rescue for the depleted bone marrow after treatment. For many people with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, or another blood disorder, this is their only option for fighting their disease.
Previously, Gold Coast patients would have to travel to Brisbane for the auto transplant process. It used to be a lot of running around for people who are already stressed and unwell – going up to Brisbane for lead up appointments; then going back to get their stem cells collected; then having to go back again to re-infuse their stem cells.
Unfortunately, because the stem cell collection process is very individualised, it’s hard to plan – so patients wouldn’t know whether they’d be in Brisbane for a few days or a week. If they could, they would bring a family member with them, which is a wonderful support.
The Leukaemia Foundation would often provide accommodation for patients in a nearby motel, which helped with some of the financial pressure, but there was still a lot for patients to deal with.
In addition to their diagnosis, they’d have to think about organising care for children and pets back at the Coast; going to a new hospital and meeting a different treatment team; their carer would need to organise an indeterminate period of time off work; and of course they’d be dealing with being separated from their family and friends.
The new transplant unit at the Gold Coast hospital means that local patients can now stay at home and just travel to the hospital during the day for their appointments. It takes a lot of pressure off them, as they can stay in their own surroundings, stay with their usual treatment team, and be close to home and their families.
My advice to anyone who is about to embark on an autologous transplant is to write down any questions you may have and arrange a visit to the unit.
The nursing team at the transplant unit are brilliant at making you feel calm and comfortable and ensuring that you are fully informed.
The support team at the Leukaemia Foundation are also available to chat to anyone who may be dealing with a blood cancer diagnosis, no matter where they are in Queensland.