Warren beats MDS with a transplant
Warren Carney's blood group used to be O+, but following a bone marrow transplant in July 2009, it's now B+ - the same as his brother who was his donor.
"I thought that was a good omen," said Warren, 62, of Lake Macquarie. Diagnosed with MDS in 2008, Wareen hasn't taken any MDS or transplant medication since October 2010 - the month he competed in the Australian Transplant Games in Canberra, bringing home a gold medal in the singles and silver in the pairs in lawn bowls. "Everything's great," he says. "MDS is still in the back of my mind but I'm getting on with life."
It's ironic that having a heart attack in 1998 actually helped Warren beat MDS a decade later. After his heart attack, Warren went on a healthy diet and a regular fitness routine that saw him at the gym three times a week. He took up bowls and went bushwalking and bike riding too. "I was pretty fit, I felt quite well and was surprised these things (MDS) were happening."
His health was being monitored regularly and in 2006, a standard blood test showed Warren's blood counts were low. He was referred to a haematologist and in early-2008 a bone marrow biopsy showed he had MDS - a condition he hadn't heard of. "I was told the only cure for my MDS was a bone marrow transplant, but it wasn't necessary at that stage," said Warren.
After his diagnosis, he took vitamin B6 to help raise his haemoglobin levels and prednisolone to boost his immune system. His two brothers and two sisters were tissue-typed and his older brother, Garry, had matching bone marrow. Warren was also referred to St Vincent's hospital in Sydney where the bone marrow transplant process was explained to him. In early-May 2009, when Warren's blood levels reached a critical level and he began bruising a lot and got blood blisters in his mouth and sores, he started having blood transfusions, weekly initially, then twice a week.
"But in June my red blood cells and platelets weren't holding, so it was necessary for me to have a bone marrow transplant. I was told that a transplant at 60 could be a problem," said Warren. Although daunting and traumatic, the transplant, in July 2009, went very well. "I'm still here," Warren joked. "The success was put down to me being fit and healthy and Garry's very good bone marrow match."
For Warren and Margaret, his wife of 40 years, their time in Sydney was made easier by visiting family members and friends. During the transplant, Margaret sat with Warren each day during his four weeks in hospital. After he left St Vincent's, they stayed at the Leukaemia Foundation's accommodation complex at Waverton for another four weeks as Warren revisited the hospital three times a week.
While in Sydney, the Carneys used the Leukaemia Foundation's patient transport service a few times, which was a strange twist of fate as Warren had spent 12 months as a volunteer driver for the Foundation back in 2004.
Twelve months after Warren's transplant, the Carneys went to the Whitsundays for a family holiday and as Margaret recently retired, they have many more travel plans. They're off to Tasmania in March and are looking forward to going to Western Australia.