"I just tried to think of it as my job, something I had to do to give myself a chance."
- Ben Rouse
Ben Rouse underwent a double umbilical cord stem cell transplant at UW Hospital at the age of 22. He is one year post-transplant and off all immunosuppression, does not have any signs of graft versus host disease and his leukemia is in remission. Here's Ben's story.
"I was diagnosed with APML (acute promyelocytic leukemia) in April of 2007, when I was 20. I got an infection and that's how I found out, because my white cells were depleted. I just thought I was sick.
"I don't think I cried at the time. It was another challenge I had to face. I was going to UW (as a student) and I missed the last five weeks of that semester. I got out of the hospital in May and took my final exams anyway, because I didn't want to take any incompletes.
"I got chemotherapy in April and May of 2007 and consolidation treatment throughout the summer. That didn't work, so they started arsenic trioxide treatments. It's supposed to work between 45 and 60 days of treatment but it didn't, so they started looking for donors. I have two sisters and they say you have a one in four chance of a sibling being a match. Neither of my sisters were and they didn't find anyone in the worldwide database, either.
"In April of 2008 the leukemia did go into remission, which was exicting. That summer we were planinng an autologous transplant, and they took out my stem cells and froze them. But the insurance company ended up turning me down because I was in remission and the insurance company didn't think it was necessary.
"In April 2009 I ended up relapsing. That's when we started the search for an unrelated donor, and that's when we went with the umbilical cord stem call transplant. I just tried to think of it as my job, something I had to do to give myself a chance. I just realized it's really my only chance, so there's no reason to be down about it. It was unlucky. I won the wrong lottery, but I had no other choice.
"I was admitted on September 23 of 2009 and got the new stem cells on October 2. They say almost 100 percent of patients get readmitted within three months because of infection. My goal was to not be in that 100 percent, but within a week I had a 103-degree fever, so I was readmitted. Since then everything has been pretty good.
"Sometimes I sleep like eight or nine hours and wake up and am still tired but that's to be expected. Post-transplant I took it too easy. It was in the winter so I couldn't' do much outside. I was off my feet a lot of the time. My ankles are weak so I'm trying to get some strength back there. Other than that, I can do pretty much anything. My energy level is coming back. I'm still more tired than I would be but nothing too extreme."