600th autologous stem cell transplant at Aurora St. Luke's

A team success

stem cell transplant patientOn Tuesday, June 18, Bill Berholtz, from the Oshkosh area, was  the 600th autologous stem cell transplant patient at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center.

"Throughout Bill's journey toward his stem cell transplant, a multidisciplinary team worked together with him to make it a positive and successful experience," said Jamie Huebschen, RN, the autologous stem cell transplant program coordinator.

Bill realized something was wrong when he found himself constantly fatigued. Normally an active person, he now had to push himself to go to work. He said he could sense a change in his body -- he was always weak and tired.

Bill was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and sent to Aurora St. Luke's, where he received this landmark procedure. He said the care he received was excellent.

Aurora St. Luke's performs autologous stem cell transplants which means that the patient's own stems cells are used for the transplant. In the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic at Aurora St. Luke's, the stem cell collection team from the Blood Center of Wisconsin obtained sufficient stem cells from Bill's blood in one procedure. Then, Bill was admitted to the specialized inpatient transplant unit where he received high-dose chemotherapy to kill the cancer. His stem cells were then infused back into him to restore his immune system.

Caregivers celebrated the event with Bill by giving him balloons and taking a picture of him with Dr. Taylor, which was framed and put on display. Bill said it felt a bit strange to be getting all this attention, but, aside from the bother of being interviewed, he appeared to be doing well. He said he was weak, but otherwise he felt fine. 

Under the direction of Robert Taylor, MD, Aurora St. Luke's has been conducting autologous transplants for 23 years. The program is accredited by FACT (Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy) which means that it meets or exceeds standards established for high quality medical and laboratory practices in transplant. The program provides a dedicated transplant coordinator who provides education, communication and most importantly, coordinated care for every patient throughout the transplant process. Each patient is provided with transplant-trained specialty service providers such as a financial counselor, pharmacist, social worker and nutritionist.

"Transplanting our 600th patient is a major milestone for our program," said Dr. Taylor, "and we are all very excited about continuing to provide the best care for our patients here at Aurora St. Luke's."