I was asked to briefly describe my medical history, particularly my time at the transplant ward.
Well, I am 22 years old now and my third transplant took place about a year ago. In 2004, at the age of 16, I started suffering from a cAll, which could unfortunately not be cured with chemotherapy. I went through two relapses and my hopes were at an all-time low. When I took stock of my life, the results were frustrating. Compared to my friends, I was exhausted, didn’t feel any hope for an attainable future, and I was so sad. I saw my friends starting their vocational schools and getting jobs; I saw them going to clubs, playing soccer - and here I was: dragging myself back and forth between my house and the hospital.
Physically, I was pretty exhausted, and after all those ineffective therapies I had gone through, my hopes were not set high. Back then I led a very restricted life - although, and come to think of it, maybe, because at the age of 17, I met a girl I fell in love with. And we’re still together!
When I think of that time back then, I have to admit that there were times in my life when I thought about the end of my life. My outlook on my future included the growing thought of my time on this earth being limited. At that time I often felt lifeless; I was going through a very depressing time. I retreated, had no goals; my life consisted of the hospital and taking my medication. Everything seemed to be hard, even getting up on my own in the morning. I was going through phases of hopelessness, but also phases of grief and aggression towards my fate. On the other hand I never gave up hope of becoming healthy again. My girlfriend and three friends stood by me and supported me. The staff and other people at the hospital kept trying to encourage me and to give me social support.
But if you don’t see a silver lining, it is pretty hard to motivate yourself every day. Thank goodness there was this doctor at the hospital who came up and told me that there were some experiences and some proof stating that a transplant could heal me. At first I couldn’t believe it, but I was so thankful that the doctors didn’t give up on me and that they had made that suggestion. During an extensive talk, the doctor explained what transplantation is, and why he thought that it could cure me.
The conversation was quite serious, talking about the risks. But despite of all the risks involved in this therapy, I realized that, logically seen, it was a different approach than the chemotherapies I had gone through before. After this conversation I realized that I felt much better. I was hopeful and I felt that my hopelessness had turned into a chance. Physically and psychologically I felt much better, although nothing had happened yet. I got that feeling that I could have another life.
Since there was no third party donor, my mom became a donor. Unfortunately, there were some complications, which is the reason why in the end, the same procedure was performed using my dad’s stem cells. But that didn’t cure me, either, so my mom became a donor once again. I’ve been healthy for a year now and I got this feeling of having made it.
A typical day at the transplant ward.
As I said before, after the suggestion of being cured with a transplant, I became more hopeful and I felt much stronger. The transplant ward is on the first floor of an oval building. I moved into one of the 6 rooms, which are small, but equipped with all the necessities, such as shower, camping toilet and an Internet connection. What was really cool was the huge glass window, going down to the floor, with a view onto a park and the railroad line.
The time of preparation involved lots of tests and examinations, until the inpatient stay started. I had received lots of information prior to being admitted to this ward.
A nurse showed me up to my room and helped me move in. Oh, and I have to tell you something about those nurses: the nurses were hardly any older than me, so I felt really comfortable with them. Our relation could almost be described as private; we all got along really well. With them, I was able to talk about things that are interesting and important for someone my age. I had lots of interesting and long conversations with the nurses, particularly at night, when I couldn’t sleep.
The doctors explained each and every therapeutic step in detail and thus led me from day to day. There were daily consultations where they explained the course of therapy and the meaning of the symptoms. The objective of their pain therapy was to avoid any unnecessary pain. All the doctors were optimistic, which gave me the courage to take on the individual therapeutic steps.
Besides the nurses and doctors, there was also a team that took care of my psychological and social problems. The educator immediately hooked me up with the Internet so that I had contact with the outside world; and I could talk and play with him or do other things, as per my interests and daily needs.
Every morning, the psychologist came by and checked out my current mood. She always wanted to know how I felt physically and what I was thinking and feeling. When she thought it was ok and that it fit the situation, she wished me a nice day and came back the next day. I didn’t really need her during the transplant, but I liked that she checked on my well-being and that she talked to me.
Then there was also a teacher for the patients, who provided classes. Music therapy was also possible. A social worker was present for social questions.
Depending on the respective problem, I was able to address and talk to anybody working there. During all this time, I had the feeling that they all believed in me, and I also always believed that they would be able to cure me.
Now, one year has passed since the transplant. I have this feeling that I will remain healthy and I am planning on going to nursing school to become a nurse.