First Person in Kansas Cured of Sickle-Cell Disease With Stem Cell Transplant

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Jill Chadwick

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            When 23-year-old Desiree Ramirez of Topeka came to The University of Kansas Cancer Center for treatment of sickle-cell disease, she had no idea she was going to be a pioneer. It’s a condition she’s had for as long as she can remember, and it usually caused her to be hospitalized a couple of times a month for treatment. Sickle cell is a disease that causes blood to clog in the tiny vessels and organs of the body, “It’s terrible,” Ramirez said. “You’re in and out of the hospital, you’re in and out of emergency rooms you always have doctors visits. You feel really tired you’re in a lot of pain.”

             Ramirez became the first adult in Kansas to undergo a stem cell transplant…a procedure using her body’s own stem cells to fight the disease. Until now, doctors could only treat the symptoms of sickle-cell disease, but this procedure offered hope for a cure. 

            So far, the results have been amazing. Ramirez began feeling better just a couple of weeks after her transplant, and 100 days after the transplant she had not been admitted to the hospital a single time. It’s now been a year since the transplant and Ramirez is cured of sickle cell disease. The now 24-year-old is ready to make the most of this new life she has that’s pain free, “I’m excited! As soon I’m able to do things, I’m going to do them.”

            In the video, Ramirez describes her life before the transplant, living with sickle- cell disease. She also talks about how well it’s gone for her after the transplant. Also, Sunil Abhyankar (Ah-bee-ONK-ar), MD, a blood and marrow transplant physician at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, describes the procedure and how it’s helped Ramirez.