Being a bone marrow recipient can create a host of mixed feelings. On “Day Zero,” the day upon which you receive your donated cells, you might feel excited and eager to celebrate. Alternatively, you may feel a bit anxious or scared. Both are normal feelings for this process.
Before Day Zero, or Transplant Day, you will receive a pre-transplant treatment that consists of a high dose of chemotherapy and maybe even some radiation therapy. This is a significant element of the transplant process.
Typically, the donated cells will arrive in blood bags, which are similar to the ones you see when people donate blood The cells in these bags are then put into your body, or infused, through an IV (intravenous) line. Many times, a central line is used to infuse the cells, and this consists of a tube that has been surgically inserted via a vein in the chest.
Depending upon the volume of the cells, the process could take up to an hour. It typically does not hurt. A nurse will be on hand to check your blood pressure and pulse and to take note of any reactions you might have during the process. You may be mildly sedated during this procedure.
These donated cells are pretty smart, too! They simply know where they need to go in your body. They flow through the bloodstream and settle in the bone marrow as needed. From there, they will begin to grow and produce new red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This process is referred to as engraftment. This is a key component of the transplant procedure. The waiting period for engraftment is up to 30 days. You may feel certain side effects during this time preparative regimen you received prior to the infusion. Some can be serious and some may be mild.
Until your cells engraft, you may received a red blood cell transfusion once a week and two to three platelet transfusions a week.