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Diary of Simon's Stem Cell Transplant: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: When is the surgery?
A: There is no surgery for a stem cell transplant. The stem cells are infused through Simon's Broviac (central line), just like a blood transfusion.

Q: Who was the donor?
A: Simon. Back in early February (see the WHAT'S HAPPENING Archive February 2002, February 3 and 8 entries), Simon's stem cells were harvested through a process called Apheresis. The "product" was then sent to Children's Hospital of Los Angeles for a special purging process to remove any trace of neuroblastoma. This purging process is being studied for the difference it makes, if any, in the outcome of transplant patients.

Q: What exactly is being transplanted?
A: Simon's bone marrow. But here's the story. Although it's referred to as a "transplant", a more accurate way of looking at it is that the stem cell infusion is a "rescue". The purpose of Simon's current procedure is to give him a huge dose of chemotherapy (see the TREATMENT page for details) in order to kill off the cancer remaining in his bones and bone marrow. This cancer is very stubborn. The amount of chemo Simon received is more than his body can actually withstand. So, after the chemo has had 3 days to process out of his body, the stored stem cells are infused to help create new bone marrow (and thus new blood).

Q: How long does it take?
A: 3-4 weeks total. 4 days chemo; 3 days rest; stem cell infusion day (about 30 minutes of actual procedure); 10-14 days of being very sick, depleted, and vulnerable to infection and organ failure (especially kidney, liver). Eventually, Simon's blood counts will return to a level that will enable him to go home to continue his recovery.

Q: What is he likely to feel?
A: The effects of neutropenia (low blood counts) and chemotherapy destruction of healthy cells: fatigue, desperate moods, possible infection, diarhea, terrible mouth sores, skin rashes.

Q: What can be done to ease his discomfort?
A: Hygeine! Careful handwashing by all adults who interact with Simon. No visits from children under 12 to avoid childhood illness germs. Mouth care (brushing teeth 4 times/day; rinsing when/if sores develop). Strict food guidelines to avoid fungus and bacteria. Ambrotose will be permitted starting Day +1 to help Simon's body rebuild. The best medicine will probably be the doting company of his parents!
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