On 20 August 2020, Dr Sujith Samarasinghe, consultant paediatric haematologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, answered live questions from the families of children with aplastic anaemia. Families submitted questions in advance and in person at the event, and The Aplastic Anaemia Trust's CEO, Stevie Tyler, chaired the event. 

It was a wonderfully informative discussion, and you can watch all the answers to the questions below. (If you prefer to just the whole event as one long video, this is available on our YouTube channel here.)

As Dr Samarasinghe says many times - we'd always recommend you discuss your individual situation with your doctors. This is so important as official advice can vary regionally, and is always so dependant on your own individual circumstances.

Is it safe for children with aplastic anaemia to return to school?

Many parents wanted to know about the government advice to return their children to school, and whether this is safe for their child. Dr Samarasinghe gave some very specific advice about the blood levels that would mean that your child can safely return to school, and there was some further discussion about what these mean, following a question from someone in the webinar. 

The discussion returned to this topic later, see "After receiving immunosuppressant treatment, how long until children can go back to school?" below. 

What foods is it unsafe to eat following a bone marrow transplant?

The conversation moved to a more general non-covid focussed question at this point, and Dr Samarasinghe was able to offer some useful insight - while emphasising that this is some thing to discuss with your clinicians. Stevie mentions that The AAT has some further advice on this topic on our website, you can find our advice on neutropenic diet here.

Are joint pain and hair loss symptoms of aplastic anaemia?

A parent of a child with aplastic anaemia asked about whether joint pain is a sympton of AA - and this also led to a question about hair loss.  Dr Samarasinghe told us that no, these are not symptoms that he'd expect as a result of AA - but that patients may experience either as side effects of particular treatments. 

Aplastic anaemia: immunosuppressant treatment or haploidentical transplant?

Another common question from our patient community - Dr Samarasinghe gave a detailed answer about the potential risks and benefits of opting for a 9/10 match transplant or immunosuppressant treatment. He explained why, at the moment, immunosuppressant treatment is usually recommended as a first option, but it can depend on a patient's views and circumstances. 

Will my platelet levels recover again after a suspected case of covid-19?

This patient had found that after a suspected case of covid-19, thier platelet levels had dropped considerably, and asked whether they could expect them to return to normal again. Dr Samarasinghe explains why a drop in platelet levels can be expected after an AA patient has any virus infection, not just coronavirus. 

How has your work at the hospital changed since the arrival of Covid-19?

We were interested to hear from Dr Samarasinghe about how his work with families affected by AA had changed since the arrival of coronavirus. He told us about how many changes to his working environments have been implemented to keep everyone safer. 

Three years post transplant my blood levels are still not in the normal range. What are the options?

In a detailed answer, involving some specific follow-up comments, Dr Samarasinghe provided this patient with some detailed information about what treatment options they might be offered next. 

After receiving immunosuppressant treatment, how long until children can go back to school?

The return to school for children in the UK was clearly on everyone's minds this week, and we returned to this topic in more detail  as Dr Samarasinghe answered this question about returning to school after immunosuppressant treatment. Dr Samarasinghe explains why this is a question that you should definitely ask your clinical team - they will certainly be expecting to have those discussions with you!

Can children with aplastic anaemia get access to eltrombopag?

As eltrombopag becomes available to more adult patients, as a result of work by The Aplastic Anamia Trust, parents were keen to know whether this treatment was effective for children with AA and how they might access it. Dr Samarasinghe talks about new evidence of the efficacy of eltrombopag in children with AA, and how parents can apply for it. 


If you have more questions about eltrombopag and the impact of Covid-19 on adult AA patients, do join our live Q&A with Dr Austin Kulasekararaj on 2 September, as he will be focussing on these topics. Resister for free here and email any advance questions to [email protected].