If Joan Casey was told over a year ago that she was going to need a bone marrow transplant she wouldn’t have believed it.  She first found out that there was something wrong after a routine visit to her physician.  Her physician had ordered blood work in order to update a prescription.  When the results arrived, Joan was told that her blood count was abnormal.

“I didn’t know there was anything wrong.  I felt fine and wasn’t experiencing any unusual symptoms.” For nearly a year, Joan waited as her physician tried to pinpoint the problem. 

In June 2008, Joan was referred to the care of hematologist and oncologist John Richart, MD, associate professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.  It was in June that Joan was told that she had aplastic anemia and would need to undergo a blood and marrow transplant (BMT). BMT is a specialized, advanced therapy used to treat patients with both malignant and non-malignant disorders. It also is used to prolong disease free survival, and in many cases cure diseases otherwise considered fatal.  “Joan was a good candidate for harvesting because she would benefit from the smaller number of T-lymphocytes that can result from the procedure,” Dr. Richart says. “The lower number of T-lymphocytes means a potentially better reaction to the transplant and a lower chance of contracting graft versus host disease (GvHD).”            

 When Joan was told that she needed a bone marrow transplant, her family rallied around her with support.  Joan and Dr. Richart hoped to find a donor match in one of her two sisters or her brother.  “Family members often present the best donor match but the chance of finding a match within a family is only around 25 percent,” says Dr. Richart.            

 Joan found her match in her sister Nancy Gartner.  “I hope that if anyone had the opportunity to donate to their sibling they would,” says Nancy.          

The BMT program at SLU Hospital provides a comprehensive standard of care that involves expert medical staff support, patient education and state of the art technology.  All BMT patients are cared for in a 17-room oncology nursing unit.  The medical team includes BMT physicians, radiation oncologists, BMT PharmD, BMT & NMDP Coordinator, BMT trained registered nurses and a discharge nurse coordinator.  SLU Hospital stands out because of the individualized treatment patients receive from the staff.             

 “Our patients receive direct attention from the attending physician.  We are with our patients every step of the way.” Dr. Richart says, “I feel like we have the best nurses and the best team in the region.” Joan has come a long way since a year ago.  She finally knows what was causing her abnormal blood levels and has responded well to the treatment prescribed by Dr. Richart.  “My ANC (absolute neutrophil count) is 600!” Joan says with a smile, “it was only in the double digits when I got here.  I feel great.” Sidebar: The Advantages of Saint Louis University Hospital BMT Program In addition to being a facility that offers advanced oncology care, Saint Louis University Hospital has many other components that ensure that your patient will receive the best care possible.      

  • Team approach to care
  • Empowering the patient to take an active role while developing personalized treatment plans
  • Social, emotional and spiritual support along the entire continuum of care

Access to clinical trials including:

  • Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG)
  • SLU physician investigator initiated trials Standard of care regimens for patients not on a clinical trial
  • The oncology nursing floor consistently earns the ‘five star award’ for exceptional nursing care.  This award is dependent on patient satisfaction surveys.