The Asiri Bone Marrow Transplant Unit Celebrates Four years of Success Stories
Established in 2014 as a ground-breaking project, Sri Lanka’s first-ever dedicated Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Asiri Central Hospital recently celebrated its fourth anniversary bringing renewed hope to the lives of many patients, especially children.
Despite Bone Marrow transplant being a curative treatment modality available globally for over 50 years, the country then lacked the facilities and expertise to help ailing patients mainly those suffering from thalassemia, a rare genetic blood disease and life-threatening disorder to receive life-saving treatment.
For thalassemia patients lifelong blood transfusion is required. However, the continuous transfusions can cause complications such as iron overload and blood-borne infections and a limited lifespan.
With the support of Italy’s Cure2Children Foundation, Asiri Health successfully set up Sri Lanka’s first-ever dedicated Bone Marrow Transplant in 2014, with specialised nursing and medical staff and a custom-designed isolation ward for patients' recovery.
Initially, the local team received their training from the foundation’s Italian doctors and even to-date receives supplemental training locally and from overseas. The Unit has performed well over the years achieving a success rate of 32 transplants.
Headed by Dr. Lallindra Gooneratne, Consultant Haematologist, Asiri’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, continues to provide fresh hope for not only thalassemia patients but also for those afflicted with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and other blood disorders. During the past four years the unit has treated patients aged from one and a half years to those in their late eighties.
Dr. Gooneratne noted, “Our programme was the first in the country to begin bone marrow transplantation. Using state-of-the art technology and facilities we were able to successfully treat patients with even very complex conditions. One of our very first young patients was completely cured and successfully completed her O/L examination recently.”
While Bone Marrow transplants require a matching donor, Asiri Hospital assures patients of finding matching donors via overseas registries. Working in collaboration with India’s Datri Registry and other registries in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, Asiri Hospital sources possible donors for patients.
While the consultation for patients are done free of charge, all patients have access to the Unit’s multi-disciplinary team including a consultant paediatric surgeon, consultant paediatrician, consultant anaesthetist, general physician, specialists from the blood bank, a micro biologist, and senior nursing and support staff.
Commenting on the processes followed Dr. Gooneratne said, “Each patient will be in our unit for approximately 45 days during the transplant, three special positive pressure rooms are available to ensure the air inflow is purified. Additionally, medication used for patients are never compromised as we always dispense the highest quality drugs and these are prepared in a special room by a trained and specialised individual. Even the meals are prepared in a special manner according to the dietitian’s order and goes through a hygiene process into the unit.”
Continuously maintaining stringent quality standards, the Asiri Bone Marrow Unit has been accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), among the world's leading nonprofit patient safety organizations.
Additionally, the Unit is a member of the Asia Pacific Blood and Marrow Transplantation Group (APBMT), an international organisation involved in hematological stem cell transplantation, which cooperates on basic and clinical research in Asia-Pacific countries. The Unit routinely submits all patient outcomes to the Group towards further collaboration and research.
As a pioneering facility, the Unit is also recognised and approved by the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, as a training facility for all postgraduates prior to certification.
Readily available to help patients at any time, the Unit’s nursing staff is contactable at any time via hotline, 0766 258941.