Grace Gannon talks stem cell & bone marrow transplantation and running in the VHI Womens Mini Marathon

Grace Gannon and friends at Women's Mini Marathon 2023

At the age of 22 years when I was commencing my nursing studies I was diagnosed following bone marrow biopsies with a rare blood disorder known as pure red cell aplasia whereby the bone marrow ceases to produce red blood cells. As a result, I required numerous blood transfusions every two weeks to bring my haemoglobin up to a relatively functioning level.

Prior to receiving the blood transfusions, I became extremely fatigued whereby the simplest of tasks became a struggle and joint pain became an issue because of the numerous transfusions. All events and trips had to be planned in advance as I required the blood transfusions to function. For the majority of my 20s different treatments were trialled with limited success.

In November 2021 I received life changing immunotherapy in St James’s under consultant haematologist Dr Flynn whereby I took part in a clinical trial guided by NIH in the US.  I’m extremely grateful to Dr Flynn for that opportunity.

The side effects from the treatment apart from being immunocompromised and the odd infection are minimal compared to the emotional and physical fatigue of the numerous and regular hospital visits throughout my 20s.

I was an inpatient in Burkitt’s ward in St James for 2 weeks. I can’t thank the staff there enough for their kindness and medical expertise.

Denis Burkitt Ward is the admission unit for all patients with haematological diseases, including all patients undergoing stem cell transplantation and bone marrow transplantation. The unit is the National Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Centre.

Prior to this I regularly attended the oncology/haematology day ward in Sligo university hospital and the outpatient haematology/oncology day ward in St. James’s for 2 units of blood every 2 weeks.

Prior to receiving this treatment because of the severe anaemia whereby at times my haemoglobin would drop to a low of 6, I’d struggle with the simplest of tasks and working full time as a mental health nurse was becoming difficult.

I will always be extremely grateful for the wonderful care shown to me and the expertise in both Sligo university hospital and St James’s Hospital.

Something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the energy to do was the VHI woman’s mini marathon and a charity I always wanted to give back something to was BMLT and it’s an absolute privilege.

Treatments and research are improving year on year and supports like the BMLT are invaluable.