New unit at Levine Children’s Hospital provides more freedom to patients receiving stem-cell transplants

Updated: Sep. 27, 2019 at 5:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Atrium Health opened a new unit at the Levine Children’s Hospital in September.

The Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapies unit, or BMT Unit, is for patients needing bone marrow or stem cell transplants, as well as treatment for illnesses like bone marrow failure, immunodeficiencies, and blood diseases.

According to Levine Children’s Hospital Medical Director of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Dr. Javier Oesterheld, to provide a stem-cell transplant the patient’s immune system is wiped out.

“In bone marrow transplant we take out your immune system and put a new one in,” Dr. Oesterheld said. “So you will not have an immune system for about 30 to 45 days so infection is our biggest risk.”

Prior to the BMT Unit, patients would be confined to their hospital rooms for weeks to avoid exposure to germs during the transplant. But now, the BMT Unit provides them with more freedom.

“So if you talk to anyone whose had a bone marrow transplant they’ll tell you it feels like jail time. Here it won’t,” Dr. Oesterheld said.

The unit is equipped with a centralized HEPA-filtered air system. The system purifies the air so that patients can walk around the unit rather than being confined to their rooms.

Kellie Andrew and her daughter Brinn just spent 30 days on the new BMT Unit. Brinn is battling Neuroblastoma and received stem-cell-therapy at Levine Children’s Hospital this summer.

“When she felt good, she could walk up and down the halls, we played playdough and she had her baby doll with her,” Andrew said.

It’s a sense of freedom and normalcy, not every patient had before.

Funding for the BMT Unit was generated from the Levine Children’s Gala in 2017 and 2018. The unit is also known as Sandra and Leon’s Place due to the contributions from Sandra and Leon Levine.

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