Topeka Woman First to Fight 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.

             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 has not been admitted to the hospital a single time. The only pain she complained about is her hip, which was a result of the sickle-cell pre-transplant, and not due to the transplant itself.  She plans on having a full hip replacement, but has to wait six months post-transplant to do so.

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