If you or a loved one has blood cancer, you may have discussed a bone and marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, with your care team. While the current circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic may not be what you expected when planning for a transplant, it is an important treatment that should not be delayed.
At Sarah Cannon, safety measures have been taken and new protections have been put in place to make our clinical care facilities the safest possible place to receive healthcare at this time. Here are answers to questions that you and your loved ones may have about your upcoming treatment, including how to prepare and what to expect.
How did you decide to open back up to full transplant services?
Programs across the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Network have been focused on planning and preparing to restart many patient care services, including transplant services. Stem cell transplants are not the equivalent of “optional” procedures that can be delayed indefinitely. As we continue to monitor the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, our programs have thoughtfully re-introduced stem cell transplants that were deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How will my experience be different now compared to before COVID-19?
Important precautions implemented in the earliest stages of COVID-19 remain in place across our facilities. We continue to limit the number of entrances into facilities, so you will see enhanced directional signage throughout, including entrances and exits. Staff screeners are present at these entrances to ask a series of questions to all individuals arriving at the facility, including questions regarding symptoms and travel history. Social distancing will also affect your experience within our facilities. We currently permit one visitor (screened negative and masked) to be with patients during outpatient procedures or clinic visits. Additionally, virtual visitation exists for all facilities. Common areas such as cafeterias and lobbies have been reconfigured to ensure spacing between visitors and patients. We have also established a dedicated unit within our facilities for the evaluation and treatment of COVID-19 patients, minimizing any risk to others coming in to our facility.
Will I be tested for COVID-19 before my transplant?
Sarah Cannon facilities do test for COVID-19 prior to admission to the hospital for transplant. After your COVID-19 testing, we ask that you stay at home until it is time to come to the facility for care. The decision to test a patient for COVID-19 prior to transplantation is in keeping with guidance from the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy and Be the Match.
How should I prepare for my admission for transplant?
Continue to follow infection prevention guidelines including hand washing, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and avoiding public areas. Remember to stay at home the week prior to admission. On the day of your admission, your transplant coordinator will direct you on where to come to meet your healthcare team. If you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, please let your physician know immediately.
Will my family be able to be with me?
We continue to maintain every precaution when keeping our patients, care team members, and communities safe. We are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and cannot permit visitors in the transplant unit. Virtual visitation using mobile devices, tablets, or a personal computer is available while on the transplant unit.
Will my recovery be different? Will I be more likely to catch COVID-19 after receiving treatment?
Your transplant physician will discuss with you the risks and benefits of treatment, including if there is an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. It will of course be important that you maintain all the precautions that the general public are asked to follow. As always, we are here to support you in your recovery, whatever the circumstances.