My transplant journey by Nikhil Autar

June 23, 2017
Personal Stories

I was 17 years old, and in the middle of my Higher School Certificate, when I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in 2011, at Liverpool Hospital. I received my first two rounds of intense chemotherapy there, but because the leukaemia was advanced, and detected late, the doctors knew I had to have a bone marrow transplant.

Living in Sydney I had two choices – Westmead Hospital or St Vincent’s Hospital. My uncle had a bone marrow transplant in 2003 at St Vincent’s Hospital under Associate Professor Dodds and I knew from his experience that he was the doctor I wanted to go to.

I had my first bone marrow transplant in September 2011, after the maximum dose of radiation possible. It went well aside from some Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) which was controlled well.

The staff were amazing. From doctors to cleaners. But the room I was in often let me down. I learn now that the room wasn’t optimally designed for infection control for today’s strict standards. This is why a new transplant ward is so important!

Despite my leukaemia and treatment, I was accepted to study medicine that same year. But then my blood counts started to drop and I had relapsed.

I needed to get my leukaemia under control before I could receive a second transplant. St Vincent’s Hospital was short of single patient rooms and the chemotherapy would leave my immune system very low, a four bed room with other patients who could be infectious, was not suitable so I was transferred to Liverpool Hospital.

I eventually received a second bone marrow transplant. By that stage I had completed a year of medical school and was able to suggest to my doctor to let me try a particular medicine that might help my disease! Two and a half years later, after a near loss of my eyesight, two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit with seizures of an unknown origin and another type of cancer – I’m still here! Currently undertaking research to find that elusive cure for leukaemia.

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