Celebration of Life Event provides support for transplant patients.

Celebration of Life, July 14

Fundraiser supports Blood & Marrow Transplant Program patients 

Feist-Weiller Cancer Center will celebrate 28 years of transplants through the Blood & Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program with the Second Annual Celebration of Life event. The fundraising dinner, set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 14 at East Ridge Country Club, benefits Feist-Weiller’s BMT Fund, which assists patients with lodging and transportation costs during the transplant process.

Many transplant patients have to remain within close proximity of their treating hospital for at least two months following a transplant. “This can become a burden for the patient and the family to stay here locally following the transplant,” said Dr. Nebu Koshy, Director of Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation and Associate Professor of Medicine at LSU Health Shreveport.

The BMT Fund covers apartment costs for those needing to stay in the area as well as provides gas cards for patients who have to travel more than a 45-mile radius from LSU Health’s partner hospital, University Health Shreveport. University Health is also one of the title sponsors for the Celebration of Life event.

The BMT Program is the only site treating acute leukemia and providing bone marrow transplants in a 200-mile radius of Shreveport. The program offers autologous transplants using the patients’ stem cells and allogeneic transplants, which includes both matched sibling donor and matched unrelated donor transplants through a registry. This year the program started performing haploidentical transplants, or half-matched transplants, using related donors. “This has expanded access to donors for patients who need urgent transplant for the disease,” Dr. Koshy said.

Several BMT patients will share their inspiring stories during the Celebration of Life event. Patient Ginger Giddings said the BMT Program has meant a lot to her throughout the years – it’s meant her life. In 2009 she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow, and was told she’d be wheelchair-bound within five years. Myeloma cells interfere with cells that help keep bones strong, and while she’s suffered fractures, her treatment through the BMT Program has helped her defy the odds and kept her on her feet.

She’s had three bone marrow transplants through the clinic. The first two procedures were autologous, using her stem cells for the transplant, but when the time came for a third transplant, that was no longer an option. “When they put my name out there, in this entire world there was just one person that was a 50 percent match, so my siblings were tested and one of my sisters was a perfect match,” Giddings said. “I’ve met people that have no family … and I’ve met ones that have died because there is nobody out there that matched them. You just don’t realize the gift that it is – you never know whose life you’re going to save.”

Ginger, who lives more than 60 miles away in Campti, said she found so much more than treatment in the BMT Program medical team. “You become family here, and they help you in any way they can. You’re not a number. You’re not just a patient. You’re family, and they have helped me with financial aid, they’ve helped me pay for my chemo, and gas. When you drive up here and back two or three times a week, of course your gas adds up,” Ginger said, adding that the gas cards provided through the BMT Fund have helped her tremendously.

Support through the Celebration of Life fundraiser makes that assistance possible. Tickets to the event are $30, which includes dinner, live music by Caravan, and complimentary beer and wine. To purchase tickets by July 10 or make a donation to the BMT Fund, click here or call 318-813-1056.