What to expect
Remember, each person has their own unique experience with transplant. Your experience will depend on many things, including type of transplant, your overall health, and your disease status. Your transplant team will always be there to guide and care for you.
Finding a Match
HLA matching starts with a blood test. Blood is tested and compared to any potential donors. Usually, doctors want to match between 8 and 10 HLA markers. To find a close HLA match, your doctor will start by testing immediate family members due to HLA markers being inherited from your parents (1/2 from your mom, 1/2 from your dad).
Preparing for a Transplant
Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) are proteins found on most of your cells in your body. HLA matching is used to match you and your donor which happens once you and your doctor have decided that an allogeneic transplant is your best treatment option.
Allogeneic transplant is when healthy blood-forming cells (stem cells) come from a donor. A close HLA match makes it more likely your transplant will work, treat your disease, and help lower risk for complications after transplant.
Basic Checklist to Prepare for Transplant
- Make a list of important phone numbers. Share the list with the entire family. Include names and numbers of your health care team and caregivers.
- Write down important information about finances. Tell your caregiver where you’ll keep this information.
- Ask your bank what you need to do so your caregiver can handle certain transactions for you.
- Plan how your bills will be paid while you’re in the hospital and during recovery.
- Ask for help with household chores and other duties.
- If you have children, set up schedules and make plans for how they’ll be cared for while you’re away. Tell your children and others involved about the plans you make.
- If you’re the only one who can allow medical care for your children, provide a medical release that gives permission to your caregiver or another person you trust. Ask your children’s doctors to give you a medical release form.
Transplant day is the day you receive your new healthy cells, and can be a day filled with many emotions. Similar to a blood transfusion, the marrow or blood stem cells are infused through an intravenous line into the patient. Many patients report having little to no pain when receiving the blood transfusion. Receiving the stem cells can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Patients are advised to relax and trust the Medical team during the procedure.
Recovery after Transplant
Each patient’s recovery is different. Recovering from a transplant takes time and complications are common.
Engraftment happens in the early weeks after transplant day. During engraftment, your healthy cells have started to grow and create new cells (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) in your body.
After transplant, healthy blood-forming cells you received move through your bloodstream and into your bone marrow.
After transplant day and while you are waiting for your cells to engraft, you will have your blood drawn every day so you can have it tested in a lab. The test will count how many white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets you have. Each day your transplant team will give you your numbers. Engraftment can happen at a different time for each person. Often, it happens within a couple of weeks after transplant. You may need red blood cell and platelet transfusions to keep your numbers in a safe range.
During your Recovery
Your transplant team will care for you, treat any side effects, and watch carefully for complications and infection.
*Information gathered from (Be The Match, 2019)