April 2013 Issue

20th Annual Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Celebration 

2013_BMT_ArtIn 1993, Siteman Cancer Center's first Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Celebration was a modest affair – staff members contributed dishes to a potluck dinner, with 10 patients in attendance. It was a time when bone marrow transplantation (BMT) was still a relatively new procedure, and Siteman's program performed about 30 procedures a year.

In 2013, Siteman's 20th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Celebration will be attended by 700 patients and family members. To be held in the ballroom of the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel, it mirrors the size of Siteman's program today. As one of the top five BMT programs in the world, physicians will perform more than 400 transplants this year.

The spirit of the BMT Patient Celebration remains as it was in the beginning: to recognize patients who have faced one of the most challenging periods in their lives with courage and determination, and to celebrate their survival.

"This event brings together patients, their families and their Siteman caregivers in an atmosphere that fosters shared stories, encouragement and inspiration," says John DiPersio, MD, PhD, Siteman deputy director and chief of the Division of Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine. "It's a place where someone who received a transplant 20 years ago may be seated next to a patient just weeks past transplantation. Seeing that there is life and hope in the future is a priceless gift that can be shared by these transplant recipients."

John DiPersio, MD, PhD

The evening offers a dinner and presentations by a keynote speaker, DiPersio and Peter Westervelt, MD, PhD, Siteman medical oncologist and bone marrow transplant specialist. Attendees will receive a T-shirt custom-designed by DiPersio, famous for his doodling and for creating Stem Cell Man, the BMT program's mascot.

A highlight of many past dinners has been the uniting of a bone marrow recipient with his or her donor.

"One year, the donor was a United States Navy TOPGUN fighter pilot. Seeing him walk on stage in his dress uniform was a thrill for the recipient and everyone in attendance," says Linda Laub, RN, MSN, the nurse manager of Siteman's outpatient BMT for leukemia and lymphoma. "Last year, the donor was from Germany and didn't speak English, but he went to the effort to learn a couple of sentences so that he could communicate with the recipient. It was a touching moment for all of us."

"As our bone marrow transplant program continues to grow, we need to meet the challenge of keeping our focus on providing our patients with a caring, compassionate experience unique to each of them," says DiPersio. "Part of that is ensuring we can accommodate everyone who wants to attend the patient celebration and share in this uplifting event. It is our privilege to share in our patients' journey, and this event is an opportunity for them to shine."

To accommodate the growth of the celebration, the event has now expanded to one of the largest ballrooms in St. Louis. A fund has been created to allow donors to support this special evening. Those interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Celebration may do so online here by typing "BMT Survivor Event" into the "My Designation" field. Or checks may be made payable to "WUSM Division of Oncology- BMT Survivor Event" and mailed to:

ATTN: Kevin Largent
Washington University School of Medicine
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center
Campus Box 1204
7425 Forsyth Blvd, Suite 2200
St. Louis, MO 63105

Individuals or corporations interested in underwriting the event may contact Largent at 314-935-5425 or 877-552-1506.