ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– For people with blood cancers like Leukemia, bone marrow transplants can be a life saver.
But the process can also be miserable because it usually involves a very long stay in the hospital.
And no one knows that better than Friedrich Schuening, who thought he’d be celebrating his 70th birthday with relatives in Florida instead of nurses and doctors at St. Louis University Hospital, being treated for Leukemia.
”I would have never dreamt I would have that diagnosis someday,” he said.
But Schuening`s bad news could not have come at a better time, because St. Louis University is about to open a bone marrow transplant center for outpatients.
”The major complaint from the patients is that they don`t like being in the hospital,” said Fran Poglajen, Administrative Director or Nursing, Hemotology, Oncology and Pulmonary, at St. Louis University Hospital.
”All they say is when do I get to home, and when they come in for this transplant they get to go home right away.”
And no one knows that sentiment better than Scheuning, not because he’s a patient, but because he is also SLU Hospital’s Director of Oncology and Hematology.
Creating the outpatient transplant center was his idea.
”I certainly would have never dreamt to become one of the first patients of this unit when we planned it together but certainly I am glad we have it because I will enjoy the advantages of this approach and be able to go home in the evening,” he said.
Standard bone marrow transplants usually involve a hospital stay of one to two months because the intense chemotherapy weakens the immune system.
But Dr. Schuening says studies show for patients who are healthy enough to receive outpatient care, it is a better alternative.
”There have been studies showing there is no difference in outcome so treating the patient as an inpatient or an outpatient does not in any way negatively impact the outcome and certainly it improves patient satisfaction,” Schuening said.
Dr. Schuening believes his prognosis is good. And he should know.
And he also knows when he goes back to being a doctor, he can now offer his patients a new kind of therapy.
”I hopefully will be able to tell them there is hope, don`t give up fighting.”
Before coming to St. Louis last year, Dr. Schuening established an outpatient bone marrow transplant clinic at Vanderbuilt University Medical Center.
Dr. Scheuning hopes to be back to work part time in a week or so, before receiving another round of chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant.
As an outpatient.
“I get to experience the other side of the street so to speak.”