About Bone Marrow Transplants

What is bone marrow?

Bone marrow is the bodies blood cell "factory". It is the tissue inside the bone cavity which produces and maintains a supply of blood stem cells.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are immature blood cells which mature into:

-Red blood cells (which transport oxygen)

-White blood cells (which fight infection)

-Platelets (which clot blood to stop bleeding)

Stem cells normally rest inside the bone marrow until they are mature enough to circulate in the blood stream. The mature cells are then released into the blood stream to perform their various functions. Only a small number of immature stem cells circulate in the blood stream.

Bone marrow transplants (BMT), or more commonly known as stem cell transplants, have been developed since 1956 to treat immune deficient patients suffering from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome (WAS) diseases. The process is continually being refined and improved. The Bone Marrow transplant is a challenging process involving long hospital admissions, where treatment has an impact on both patient and family. 

The transplant planning process is an important preparation period for the patient and family to have close contact with their immunology and transplant team.

Choice of Stem cell source:

-Bone marrow is first choice

-Cord blood is also possible in some cases

A good donor match is critical (from a compatible family member or Bonemarrow register)

Bone marrow/stem cells are harvested from the Donor.

A bone marrow or blood stem transplant is a two step process of:

-Elimination by chemotherapy and/or radiation of deficient bone marrow or malignant cells, followed by

-Replacement of the deficient marrow of cells by an infusion of healthy blood stem cells from the Donor.

Your specialist medical team will discuss with you when a Bone Marrow Transplant is being considered as a treatment option for your child, explaining clinical details the procedure and what to expect A range of additional patient information has been developed to answer these types of questions.

Your health care provider will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. You will have many tests before treatment begins.

Before transplant, you will have one or two tubes, called catheters, inserted into a blood vessel in your neck or arms. This tube allows you to receive treatments, fluids, and sometimes nutrition. It is also used to draw blood.

Your provider will likely discuss the emotional stress of having a bone marrow transplant. You may want to meet with a counselor. It is important to talk to your family and children to help them understand what to expect.

You will need to make plans to help you prepare for the procedure and handle tasks after your transplant:

Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant involves an extended hospital admission at Starship National Children's Hospital . If you are from outside of Auckland you can learn about what to expect on admission to Starship here, as well as local facilities nearby. The Foundation can assist with weekly visits and assistance towards hospital parking  and caregiver meal expenses.

During the Bone Marrow Transplant period families often have friends and close relatives visit from outside of Auckland. Accommodation options close to the hospital include . The Foundation has a furnished home in Red Beach which may also be booked for this purpose, contact support staff for details. Make contact with our support staff to let us know when you expect to be admitted for scheduled treatment or clinics. It is our aim to offer one -on- one practical support as needed by each family.

Once the patient is recovering from surgery and discharged from the ward , there is usually a period where the family are asked to stay close by the hospital if from outside of Auckland. Our Red Beach and Mangawhai Heads Respite homes are often used by families at this point , allowing some freedom as the patient  recuperates and family unit can enjoy private time together away from the hospital. Talk to support staff if you are interested in accessing these facilities.

There is a collection of  sample patient stories on our website; KIDS Foundation has a network of patient members that have been through Bone Marrow Transplants, if you feel it might be helpful to connect with another family please get in touch with us and we will help arrange this for you with a suitable family.

We also host a number of patient events throughout the year that in time you may want to participate in to widen your contacts.

Any other questions or problems please do not hesitate to contact our support staff .

Brochures and Materials Bone Marrow Transplant




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