Woman in hospital pajamas sits hugging her knees in front of a giant, glowing clock

My Day in the Life Getting a Bone Marrow Transplant

Not many people can say they know what it is like to get a bone marrow transplant. Here, I explain my experience in hopes to help people understand it more.

The general transplant stay

I received chemotherapy for the first couple of days which are called negative days. Then, my transplant day was considered day zero. After that, I was in the hospital for about a month before I was able to be released. They keep you in the hospital for so long afterward because your body is extremely vulnerable. I was going through such a big change that they needed to closely monitor me and help me get through it. Throughout this time I was on antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-fungals, anti-rejection medications, a feeding tube, pain medication, saline, and many other things to make sure my transplant had the least amount of complications as possible.

To get out of the hospital, my numbers (ANC, WBC, platelets, RBC) all had to be at a certain level, I had to be able to eat and drink at least some, and I had to be off of all pain medications. Once I was let out of the hospital, I stayed in strict isolation for another 2 months to allow my immune system to start coming back. Generally, this is what my overall transplant schedule was.

A day in the life

My average day started at 4 am, this is when I got my vitals taken for the first time that day. The nurse coming in usually woke me up, but afterward, I could go back to sleep. After this, I was woken up again around 7 or 8 am when the nurses switched shifts. Around this time they will also get vitals again and I took any oral morning medication. In the hospital I was at, you can also place an order for breakfast at this time too (although an appetite is rare during cancer treatment).

Depending on where you are at in your treatment, the day can consist of a few different things. Normally, I received a transfusion of platelets and another one of blood since those levels get very low from chemotherapy. If I was still in my chemotherapy treatment, that would also happen at the same time every day for however long it was scheduled.

At some point during the morning or early afternoon, the group of doctors that were in during that week would come and give an evaluation, then talk about my progress, changes, and what will be happening in the near future. After this, the day is filled with rest and vitals every four hours. At my hospital, they really pushed me to go on 2-3 walks through the hallway to get my body moving. Although this does not seem like much, the side effects are so intense that some days walking was just too exhausting.

Besides this, there would be some days where I would have to get either an EKG, echo, MRI, or a biopsy. At night, I had to shower with a special antibacterial body wash. While I was showering, my sheets and blankets were changed (they had to every night). At around 7 or 8 p.m. the nurses would switch shifts again. I would try and get some sleep, still getting vitals every four hours and start the process again. This was my basic transplant experience.

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