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My Bone Marrow Transplant

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

On March 9 2011 I was admitted to St. Luke’s in The Fort with a high fever. A few days later I was in the ICU with a massive lung infection. I was put on a ventilator and induced coma. My kids and grandchildren from the UK flew to Manila as I wasn’t expected to survive. March 20 I was airlifted to HK and admitted to the ICU in HK Sanatorium. I was woken up on March 29. I spent from then until November 8 living in the Sanatorium in room 3708.

I had to learn to walk again. I had numerous sessions of loosening and sucking phlegm out of my lungs, the most disgusting thing. I had been fed intravenously for so long that my Gall Bladder was filled with sludge, and when I started to eat again I had severe pain for a week as it tried to clear itself out. I was in nappies 24×7 as I could not move, it took 4 nurses to clean me up and give me a bed bath. Eventually I became mobile with a frame and could start making my own way to the toilet. But I needed help getting into and out of the shower and towelling myself dry and dressing. I had physiotherapy twice a day every day for weeks.

How I survived I do not know, I should not have. When I first came out of the coma I would go to sleep at night convinced that I would not wake up in the morning. But I did and gradually I grew stronger and was able to look after myself. I had a fantastic medical team in HK, 3 doctors who always took their time to discuss with me the treatment options, my progress, what they planned as further tests and when. They gave me the confidence that I would make it.

When I was stable and mobile I had a meeting with the BMT unit in Queen Mary hospital who withdrew their offer of a BMT stating I was now too high risk a patient. That was a tad depressing. Prof. Liang contacted Dr. Goh at SGH who agreed to take me but they had to do their own donor search. I had 5 doses of High Dose ARA-C chemotherapy to keep the AML under control while a new donor could be found by SGH. In the end they found a much better match than QM and that’s how I ended up here, in Singapore, on Day +85, one year on.

I gained another year of life to look after my family and watch Francesca and Sam grow. I got to see and hold my grandson Louis who was then 7 months old, and play with my darling granddaughter Lizzie.

It would have been impossible without the help of friends and family, both in Manila and HK. Truly wonderful people who went out of their way to make things happen, sat with me while I was in the coma to give a Linds a rest. My daughter Louise who stayed with me almost 24×7 in HK after I was woken up and transferred out of the ICU, while her young kids were in Manila, so Linds could have a break. Everyone who visited, brought me food, just sat with me and watched Bollywood movies, took me out when my blood counts were OK, allowed me to watch the Rugby World Cup in their apartment, met me for lunch, brought priests to pray over me, nagged me, lent me a Nespresso machine, the list of kindnesses goes on. I can never repay you.

Even now I can’t write or talk about this period in my life without becoming very emotional, it was so traumatic. The transplant was nothing compared to those early days last year.

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