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Apr, 2024

Come with us to a Stem Cell Transplant

Since the installation of the donated CBS V-5000AB Isothermal Freezer, we’ve been fascinated by the impact it will have on blood cancer patients in our community. Our team had the privilege of witnessing Penny and Jordan in action as they prepared for a transplant for Raymond, a local from Upper Coomera who is battling myeloma, a type of cancer affecting plasma cells. Raymond’s journey has been tough, particularly on his family, reshaping his outlook on life.

“My perspective on life has most definitely changed since being diagnosed. I now realise how fragile life is, and how important relationships are. They need to be cherished and nourished,” shared Raymond.

Penny and Jordan get Raymond’s stem cells ready to be transported over to the Oncology Unit. 

Meeting Penny and Jordan in their lab, we watched as they carefully prepared Raymond’s stem cells, ensuring every step of the process was meticulously verified. With the stem cells safely stored in a portable liquid nitrogen shipper, we accompanied them on the voyage to the cancer patient ward in Gold Coast University Hospital from the Pathology and Education Building. Over the months, Penny and Jordan have formed a bond with Raymond, supporting him through his cancer journey. They understand the anxiety that comes with the transplant process and do their best to ensure the patient’s comfort. Penny’s passion for music adds a personal touch; she delights in discovering patients’ favourite songs to play during the transplant process, creating a more comforting environment.

“In the Cellular Therapy Laboratory, we focus on the processes to ensure stem cell survival for later transplant. So many patients tell me to look after their cells when I turn up to take them to the lab, understanding how precious they are.  I could look at them as product in a bag but for me it is important to view them a direct extension of the patient.  In Raymond’s case I was referring to his cells as Baby Rays and mentioned to him that a previous patient requested a specific song to be played as I transported their cells to the laboratory.   He requested Luther Vandross for his cell’s transport back to him so of course I obliged (secretly relieved he wasn’t a Nickleback fan).  It is a really small thing but I want a patient to be comfortable with who is looking after their cells.  Connecting through a shared love like music can help a patient be comfortable with us and also think about something other than their disease during a process that is all about it,” said Penny.

At Raymond’s request, Penny filled the underground hallway with music, playing Never Too Much by Luther Vandross as we walked underneath Hospital Boulevard to the Oncology Ward elevators. When we arrived at Raymond’s room, we were greeted warmly by Raymond, his wife, and one of his daughters. Despite the hospital setting, spirits were high, especially when Penny played another Luther Vandross track, Ain’t no stoppin’ Us Now.

While Penny took on the role of DJ, Jordan began defrosting the stem cells in sterile water, ensuring the precious cells were protected by a sterile plastic bag to prevent any loss. With the assistance of a talented nurse, the stem cells were soon ready to be administered.

Jordan prepares Raymond’s stem cells for transplant.

We chatted with Raymond and his family, and amidst the laughter and Penny’s tunes echoing out of the room, it felt more like a party than a stem cell transplant. However, this is precisely what Penny and Jordan aim for in their patient care. The entire process was swift, but after undergoing a severe dose of chemo to eradicate his remaining cancer cells, Raymond faces a long week ahead before he starts to feel like himself again.

Hopefully, this will be the only stem cell transplant he will need, but just in case, there is another transplant ready in the CBS V-5000AB Isothermal Freezer back in the lab, which Penny and Jordan will look after, along with hundreds of others belonging to local blood cancer patients.

Despite the challenges of a cancer diagnosis, Raymond reflects on his experience so far with optimism, noting that the stem cell transplant has been monumental in his myeloma journey.

“My stem cell transplant experience has been life-changing for myself and for those around me. On numerous occasions, I’ve felt humbled by the love and prayers of others. I’ve also felt the guiding hand of a Higher being, one who has placed me in the right place at the right time,” said Raymond.

Raymond is also grateful to the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation and the support they have been able to provide to the Stem Cell Laboratory through funding from donors Sheila and Bernard’s Life-Saving Medical Equipment Fund. Raymond acknowledges the impact of such a generous donation, not only on his own life but also on the hundreds of other stem cell patients who rely on the CBS V-5000AB Isothermal Freezers and the stem cell transplant program to survive.

To those patients, Raymond offers words of hope – “Never give up. You have so much to live for. Your strength and courage through adversity may help to motivate others. Kia Kaha.”

You can make a difference in the lives of patients like Raymond by donating to the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation today.

Gold Coast Hospital Foundation would like to thank Raymond for allowing us to be a part of his stem cell transplant. It was an incredible experience to see the work of the Foundation and the generosity of the Sheila and Bernard’s Life-Saving Medical Equipment Fund come full circle and see the impact firsthand through Raymond’s cancer journey.



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