As you step into a new life after a bone marrow transplant, you must be filled with both happiness and concern. There may be several questions coming to your mind about your health and whether your life can ever return to normalcy.
The happy news is that bone marrow transplants have a survival rate of about 70-90% when performed with a matched sibling for non-malignant diseases.
However, there are still chances of complications like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, and low platelet levels. In cases of allogeneic transplants, there is a risk for graft vs host disease. In such a situation, the donor’s stem cells recognize the recipient’s body as foreign and begin attacking it leading to inflammation. This can be life-threatening even in some cases.
These complications can be managed with post-operative care and regular follow-ups with your hematologist.
Here are some ways that can help you enjoy your life after a bone marrow transplant:
Being Back at Home
You are still recovering from the procedure after being discharged from the hospital. Thus, you should be well-prepared for this transition and follow the necessary precautions to maintain your health and prevent infections. This recovery phase can extend for about a year and you may need to go to the hospital for follow-ups.
Since your immune system is still immature during the recovery phase, you have a higher chance of infections. This is especially true up to 1 year after the transplant. During this time, the healthcare team will closely monitor your blood cell counts to check how well your immune system is functioning. If you have undergone an allogeneic transplant, then you are also at risk of graft vs host disease or GVHD.
Your hematologist may also give you medicines to protect you from infections.
Here are some of the tips you can follow to avoid infections:
- Wash your hands with soap and water after being outdoors and touching fluids like blood or mucus.
- Eat properly cooked food. Avoid spoiled or undercooked food. You should also make sure that the water you are drinking is safe.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick. You can also ask sick visitors to wear a mask.
- Keep your house as clean as possible
- If you have pets, ask someone to change the cat’s litter box daily.
- Practice personal hygiene
- After the transplant, you need to get childhood vaccines again. This can be done after 1 year of the transplant. Check in with your doctor to see when can you get vaccinated.
It is important to take care of your mouth while recovering. This is because the medicines you take for BMT can increase the bacteria in your mouth leading to mouth infections. This can even spread to other body parts. To practice good oral hygiene, you can follow the given steps:
- Rinse your mouth about 4 times a day with baking soda and salt.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride
- Avoid sugary drinks and food
- Avoid mouthwash with high alcohol content
- Use toothpaste with fluoride
Resuming Day-To-Day Activities
It usually takes around 3 months to resume your daily activities.
Though it takes some time, you start a workout routine with easy and less intensive exercises. Ask your hematologist which kind of exercise is good for you.
The time required to go back to work can vary from one person to another. Usually, it takes 2-4 months after the transplant. Transitioning to a work environment can be difficult. You may feel that your attention span is shorter and find it difficult to keep up with the pace of work. It is vital to rely on your support system and talk to a psychologist or your doctor for making the situation better.
Doctors usually advise refraining from traveling for at least 6 months after a bone marrow transplant.
Your doctor will ask you to come in for regular visits after being discharged from the hospital. The healthcare team will conduct blood tests to check for your electrolyte levels, blood cell counts, kidney function, and liver function.
To prevent excessive weight gain, you need to maintain a healthy diet. Eat a balanced diet and limit salt intake. You can consult with a nutrition specialist to prepare a diet plan that you are comfortable with. Also, you should avoid alcohol and smoking.
Avail Bone Marrow Transplant Across the World
Life after a bone marrow transplant doesn’t have to be stressful. By following good hygiene and your doctor’s instructions, you can fasten your recovery. This will help you to get your life back on track. However, if you start feeling sick again, you should contact your doctor immediately.