For nearly two decades Avera McKennan has been giving patients a second chance at life through organ donations and transplants. On Tuesday afternoon the hospital surpassed a major milestone in regards to transplant patient care.
Five years ago Joyce Meland got the worst news from her doctor, a diagnosis of large cell lymphoma. With extensive treatment Joyce was able to hold the cancer off until this recent relapse.
"It numbs you, I usually bring my husband along because he hears what they're saying and I stop on the word cancer." Said Meland.
Joyce's cancer may have come back but she is ready to fight. She's at Avera McKennan for round one, a bone marrow transplant.
"It's the cure, and I have grandchildren I want to see what they do and be with them." Said Meland.
Joyce's transplant is called an autologous stem cell transplantation. This is where doctors collect her own bone marrow stem cells and freeze them, then put Joyce through an intense week of chemotherapy
"I feel good, I haven't had a sick day." Said Meland
After a day of rest Dr. Ahmed Galal, an Avera hematologist, is ready to transplant her healthy stem cells back into Joyce's blood stream.
"The merit here for doing a transplant is to deliver a high dose of chemotherapy to try and treat this lymphoma and cure it and basically rescue the person with their own stem cells so they grow back themselves and have their normal cells back to function." Said Dr. Galal.
By using Joyce's own stem cells there is a higher chance of eliminating her cancer for good.
"I just think this is a blessing from God and it's taught me to look at other things instead of material things." Said Meland.
Even given her age, Dr. Galal says Joyce is a perfect transplant candidate. With her family and friends showering her with support, Dr. Galal is even more optimistic about the procedure's success.
"This is one of the major requirements of transplant for success to have a support system with family or friends even people from the hospital and I have to admit at Avera we do a great job of supporting our patients." Said Dr. Galal.
Not only is this another chance at a cancer-free life, but Joyce's procedure is also a milestone. She is the 1000th transplant patient at Avera McKennan hospital.
"It was a surprise and everyone is excited about it and they do such a great job I can understand why 1000 people have been done already." Said Meland.
The hospital's first transplant was a kidney back in 1993, since then 605 kidneys have been transplanted. 32 pancreatic transplants have been done and Joyce makes the 363rd bone marrow transplant in the hospital's history.
Like any job working in a hospital can become routine. But for Dr. Galal, each one of these procedures is a tremendous gift.
"Every transplant is a special story and special feeling and I don't think you ever get bored living this moment and I enjoy doing this business." Said Dr. Galal.
As technology makes transplants more effective and cancer more curable, doctors and staff at Avera McKennan will continue to offer the best support and care for the next thousand transplants and every one after that.
Dr. Galal says Joyce's prognosis is looking very good, but expects her to be at the hospital for 2-3 more weeks. If all goes well, Joyce will be able to do her follow-ups at the clinic and not have to do more treatment.
For more information about becoming a donor or other transplants at Avera McKennan just call 877-AT-AVERA