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My Bone Marrow Transplant

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Linds, my wife, and I flew to Singapore on November 14 for 2 days of meetings and tests at SGH on November 16 / 17. We stayed at the Amara Hotel in Tanjong Paggar, because it is close to my office and to the hospital.

We started at 9am on the Wednesday morning by checking in at the Haematology Centre in Block 7. What a contrast to the BMT unit in Queen Mary’s in HK. It was clean, spacious and quiet. There I was given a form to go and get a heart check which was scheduled for 9:30am in the Basement of Block 5. All hospitals take some time to learn to navigate around them, SGH at least gives you a clear map.

We found the right place by 9:10am and checked in and were asked to pay. We said “we have a Letter of Guarantee from our Insurance company, all costs are covered”. They knew nothing about this so I ended up paying and we waited. And waited. And waited. Hospitals are the same the world over.

Eventually at 10:20am I was called. I was expecting a routine Echocardiogram, but this was different, a MUGA Heart scan. MUGA stands for Multi Gated Acquisition. They inject a substance into you which binds to red blood cells, then after 20 minutes they inject another, radioactive, substance which binds to the first one and then you lie flat on your back and as still as possible while staring at the word Phillips for about 20 minutes.

After that we went back to Haematology for a series of blood tests and our first meeting with the transplant unit head. He was surprised to see me looking so healthy, which I took as a good sign. He wasn’t impressed by the siting of my Hickman Line, but I assured him that it worked fine and that inserting a Hickman into me was a major process. This last one took 2.5 hours! They outlined the transplant procedure for us, showed us the dates, and scheduled a bone marrow biopsy for the following day. We were asked to come back after lunch for the Family Conference. So we went back to the hotel for a quick lunch.

The Family Conference was attended by the head of the unit, the pre-BMT coordinator, another doctor, a dietician and the Sister in charge of the BMT ward. It was a bit of a non-event as it was our third. What was said is summarised on the page “My BMT Facts”. I was also prescribed some Bactrium to start taking on Day -12.

After the Family Conference we visited the transplant Ward with the Sister in charge. The rooms are small but light and airy and the one we were shown had a view towards the container port. The bathroom is very small. Across the fields I could see our old office building, Keppel Towers. The rooms have positive pressure so that when the door is opened the air pushes out. All air passes through HEPA filters on its way in to the room. Then we met with the Dietician, who gave us a list of things that I can and cannot eat in the lead up to and during the transplant and recovery process. That concluded day one.

Day 2 started with a Lung Function test in Clinic A, Block 3 Basement 1. You try finding it without help! This was the test that I was concerned about because of the damage to my lungs from the infection earlier in the year. But the technician who conducted it said that all appeared to be fine. As had happened the day before, the clinic knew nothing about our Letter of Guarantee even though we had a copy! So we ended up paying again.

Next, the bone marrow biopsy, my favourite procedure. They stick a needle in your hip bone and suck out some bone marrow. I had warned them the day before that I have hard bones but the young doctor who performed the procedure was excellent. Of all the biopsies that I have had in the past 2.5 years this was the least stressful! Because my marrow is very dry after the large amount of chemotherapy that I have had they also took some regular blood.

And that was it, we were done. We now wait for them to confirm the dates once the donor has confirmed.

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