Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue present inside the bones, especially hip and thighbones. It contains immature cells, known as “hematopoietic” stem cells. These cells can further turn into more bone marrow cells or any blood cells such as red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. We require bone marrow and blood cells to live a healthy life.
Certain disease conditions may affect bone marrow, making it unable to function effectively. In such conditions, the doctors recommend a bone marrow transplant. Many patients with blood cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, sickle cell anemia and other life-threatening diseases rely on bone marrow transplants for survival.
Before undergoing the transplant, it is important to know what it is and how it is performed. It builds your confidence and helps in decision-making, especially regarding the treatment approach. There are two ways by which a bone marrow transplant can be performed. The doctor chooses the proper way of transplant based on your health condition.
Autologous transplants- The patient’s own stem cells are harvested before the therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy are administered. The healthy bone marrow cells are transplanted back in the body intravenously, once the chemotherapy or radiation therapy is over. This type of therapy is considered only when you have a healthy bone marrow.
Allogeneic transplants– The donor cells are used if the bone marrow cells are completely damaged. You will be given medications to suppress the immune system and preventing it from attacking the new cells.
After the transplant, you will be asked to stay in the hospital for some days until the stem cells settle in your bone marrow and start producing new cells. After the surgery, you will be prone to the infections easily, and hence you will not be allowed to talk or meet your friends, family members, etc.
In the first few weeks, your energy levels may be very low due to treatment, medications, and inactivity at the hospital. After the discharge, don’t rush to work; instead take adequate rest because your immune system will take a while to return to full strength.
Once you feel better, start building the strength and stamina of your muscles and joints. Eat a well-balanced diet and dairy products rich in calcium and phosphorus such as milk, yogurt, cream soup, etc. You can also go for spinach, roasted almonds, dried peas, and beans.
As your immune system becomes weak after the surgery, you will be at risk of infection. Infection is a major concern for people with bone marrow transplantation. Maintain hygienic conditions by washing your hands with antimicrobial soap and warm water. Brush your teeth with fluoride paste after each meal. Avoid crowded areas to avoid respiratory infections.
Last but not least, watch for early signs and symptoms of infection. If there are any, consult your doctor immediately. Some of the early signs are fever, shortness of breath, sweat or chills, diarrhea, sinus drainage, skin rash, etc.
You will be able to re-establish your life after the transplant. The quality of life experienced is generally seen to improve after the transplant. And these tips can give you a better shot at a new lease of life.
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