Since my diagnosis of Severe Aplastic Anaemia, a few treatment options had been highlighted. ATG was suggested first, but it soon became apparent that my condition was deteriorating further. The second suggestion came from London King’s College hospital, it was a trial of Eltrombopag and Ciclosporin over six weeks to see if this improved my condition. Unfortunately, it did not have any noticeable effect, which lead to the option of a stem cell transplant.

Preparing for the transplant

Hearing the words stem cell transplant was quite scary, I knew very little about what it would involve and found myself feeling quite anxious. However, the doctors were very considerate of the situation and explained the treatment, which put my mind at ease.

In preparation for the transplant my doctors sent me for multiple tests to check the health of some of my organs. Most of the tests were straight forward but others were challenging, the lung function test being one of these. Being fatigue and getting out of breath easily made this test difficult, it took a few attempts, but I managed it in the end.

The transplant

In the run up to my transplant I fell very ill with a nasty infection. I stayed at my local hospital for two weeks before being transferred to King’s, two weeks prior to my transplant date. Thankfully I soon began to recover from the infection and was able to go ahead with the treatment as planned.

I received a timeline that outlined what medicines I would be receiving as part of the chemotherapy. One thing that put me at ease was the fact the medical team called chemotherapy, conditioning therapy. It made it feel less scary and differentiated the treatment to that of a cancer treatment.

Starting from day -6 I received conditioning therapy (chemotherapy) medicines over the next four days, then on day -2 I had a rest day before restarting ciclosporin on day -1. I was expecting the side effects to kick in at this point, the common ones being nausea and hair loss. However, I had been advised that in my case it was unlikely I’d lose my hair but, that it couldn’t be ruled out (luckily, I didn’t).

Then came day 0, the day I’d been waiting months for. I received my new stem cells, donated by a stranger. All it took was 7 minutes to get the cells in, and with that I was now in recovery. Over the next week I felt the effects of the cells, I got a few body aches, but this meant it was working. I recovered very well by keeping active and was discharged on day +13.

After spending around a month and a half in hospital I was finally home recovering. I still had weekly reviews and blood tests, but these reduced over time. I’m now on day +183, just past my 6-month post-transplant milestone and am doing very well. I’ve even returned to work but, working from home until I am off my immunosuppressants.

Hey! I’m Ellen – Normally I’m a Marketing Project Manager for a Life Science company. At the end of March 2021 my life changed when I was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia (SAA).

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Stem cell transplant - a guide

We are here for you. If you or a young person you know is going to have a stem cell transplant for aplastic anaemia, we have a free guide including clinical information about the treatment and advice from people who have been there. Available to download on our website, or order as a free printed booklet, in three different age ranges:

Ages 17-25