I helped Professor Jim Biggs develop the bone marrow transplant program at St Vincent's Hospital between 1981 and 1996. This was replete with both clinical tragedies and successes. The treatment-related mortality for HLA-identical sibling transplantation at that time was 30%. On the other hand, many people with diseases incurable by any other means such as those with chronic myeloid leukemia before the availability of Imatinib, were cured and went on to live productive lives.
On 22 July 2018 my wife and I had lunch with a person and her family who had received a sibling transplant for poor prognosis acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 17. We were celebrating her 50th birthday. After the transplant she won gold medals in swimming and skiing at the Transplant Games. That was pretty special. On a different level I did an elective period at Mulago Hospital in Uganda. One of the searing images I have of this was a ward full of men all of whom were having tuberculous empyemas drained.
In the early 1980s we set up the Bone Marrow Transplant Video conferences to exchange transplant outcome data and to set up BMT clinical trials. These were attended by College Fellows who headed up the marrow transplant programs in their respective hospitals in Australia and New Zealand. It was very collegial and, I think, productive and enjoyable.
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