Bone marrow transplant

Bone marrow is the beginning of all blood cells. It’s thick, squidgy stuff that lives in the hollow bit of some bones.

A bone marrow transplant takes away dead cells in bone marrow. It swaps them for live (healthy) cells. These might be from you, or from another person.

Why do I need one?

Bone marrow transplants are given when there is something wrong with your blood cells. This might be because you have something like leukaemia, lymphoma or another type of cancer.

Or it could be because you are anaemic or have a genetic disease (a disease passed down through the family).

What happens?

You will probably have quite a few tests before your transplant. These might be a heart scan and checks on your teeth and hearing. You may have also a chest x-ray and breathing and exercise tests.

Before you start treatment you will also have a type of tube called a central line put in your chest. This is so that food and medicines can be given to you easily. It will also stop you needing so many injections and needle pricks! This will be put in while when you are under a general anaesthetic, so you will be deeply asleep.

A week or so later you will go into hospital to stay for about 2 months. You will have your own special room which will be super-clean to keep you safe from germs. You might hear this being called ‘isolation’. You’ll have a TV, radio and your own bathroom too! You won’t be able to see your friends but you can speak to them on the phone and email them. This is so they don’t bring germs in. Your Mum or Dad can be with you while you have treatment though.

You will spend about a week or ten days being give drugs to remove the bad bone marrow. Then for the next two or three weeks you will be given the healthy bone marrow. When this starts to work you will be allowed more visitors and can start leaving your room.

When can I go home?

When your new blood cells grow back well and you are starting to eat properly again, you can think about going home! But there are things you will need to be careful about. You may have to avoid certain things for a while. This is because they could put you at risk of infection. Things like:

  • Buses, trains and busy areas with lots of people
  • Certain foods like live yoghurts and fruit skins
  • Water that hasn’t been boiled
  • People who are sick or unwell

You can go out in the fresh air though, or visit the park if you feel up to it. You have to go back to clinic about once a week to check that everything is going well. You’ll probably be given some blood tests. You’ll also get to see all your favourite doctors and nurses again!

You won’t be able to go back to school for about six months. A teacher can come to your house though. When you are well enough to go back to school you can do this gradually, just for a few hours or half a day. When you don’t need any more blood tests or medicine you won’t need your Hickman line anymore. Phew!

Where can I find out more?

If you want to know more about bone marrow transplants, you can ask your doctor or nurse