Cancer center to celebrate bone marrow transplant patients, rais - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Cancer center to celebrate bone marrow transplant patients, raise awareness

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For 28 years, Feist-Weiller Cancer Center has been performing blood and marrow transplants in Shreveport. They are the only hospital in north Louisiana, and within a 200-mile radius that treats acute leukemia and providing blood and marrow transplants.

Friday night, as a way to celebrate its time in Shreveport and its patients, Feist-Weiller Cancer Center will be hosting their second annual Celebration of Life.

The event is a way to raise money for transplant patients who need assistance with housing and transportation during the transplant process. Many transplant patients have to stay close to the hospital for at least two months after a transplant. The Bone Marrow Transplant Fund covers apartment costs for those needing to stay in the area as well as provides gas cards for patients who have to travel more than a 45-mile radius from University Health in Shreveport.

"Many of the transplant patients have to stay in close proximity to their treatment facility for at least 2-3 months," said Dr. Nebu Koshy, the Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant program. "And this can become a huge burden for the patient and family to stay that long in Shreveport." 

In June of 1998, David Simmons felt a lump under his rib cage. He learned it was something he couldn't imagine, leukemia. Doctors told him he only had two years to live.

Simons needed a donor. His brother and sister weren't a full match, so doctors at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center kept him on medication while he waited.

"I was just 46 years old when I was diagnosed, and I wanted another chance of life," Simmons said.

A year later, doctors found a match from a complete stranger. 

"They made sure that it matched as perfectly as it could. And it worked," Simmons said.

Just this year, the cancer center has already performed 20 transplants, but they still need more donors.

"Right now there's a big bone marrow transplant registry called the national marrow donor program," Dr. Koshy said. "Where there are almost 20 million people worldwide who have registered themselves to be voluntary donors for bone marrow transplant. So we just did an unrelated transplant earlier this year and the donor was in Germany. So it could be anybody anywhere could potentially be a donor for someone."

Simons, given two years to live, is still alive nearly 20 years later, and he still appreciates that stranger's gift.

"It's very important that someone is out there to donate. Just like any organ," Simmons said.

If you want to register to be a bone marrow donor, you can sign up here. To donate to the BMT fund, click here.

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