Jess Griggs works in Kings College NHS Foundation Trust, a large teaching hospital in London, UK. She works as a Bone Marrow Transplant Co-ordinator and acts as a key link in the patient pathway from point of referral for transplant, coordinating all preparation activities and providing information and support for the patients and their carers. Jess is responsible for the scheduling of allogeneic bone marrow transplants for patients with acute myeloid leukaemia, chronic myeloid leukaemia and myelofibrosis.
Jess applied and was awarded the EBMT centre visit scholarship. Below she shares her experience.
I chose to spend a week in Tel Aviv, Israel, where I shadowed Simone Tal, the bone marrow transplant coordinator at Sheba Medical Centre, a large hospital thirty minutes from the centre of Tel Aviv.
Sheba is a much larger hospital than King's with 1700 beds in comparison to 950 at King’s and I was very impressed with their facilities for the patients and staff including two shopping centres, a hotel for patient’s relatives on site, a multi-story car park and plenty of food outlets.
Sheba Medical Centre and King’s College Hospital both admit approximately two hundred and fifty patients a year to have a bone marrow transplant. Sheba Medical Centre has so far treated 70 patients with CAR T therapy.
Whilst I was in Tel Aviv I was able to attend a lecture on CAR T therapy in relapsed/refractory large B - cell lymphoma at the Israeli BMT conference. This was presented by a Stanford Haematologist and focused on acute neurotoxicity in patients undergoing CAR T therapy. I found the lecture very informative and relevant to my work at King's College Hospital as we will soon be treating more patients with CAR T therapy.
During my time there the hospital opened three new rooms for CAR T cell patients as similarly to the UK the Israeli government has this year started funding CAR T cell therapy for lymphoma.
The bone marrow transplant ward had approximately 20 beds. There is a mixture of private patients from overseas who had chosen to have a transplant in Israel as well as Jewish and Arab Israelis whose transplant was funded by the government and Palestinian patients whose transplants were funded by the Palestinian Authority.
Jewish Israelis who had a volunteer unrelated donor (VUD) transplant usually had a matched donor from within Israel due to a very large donor pool. This is because many young Israelis sign up to the bone marrow transplant registry upon enlistment to the army, although joining the registry is not compulsory.
Palestinian patients face specific difficulties post-transplant: West Bank patients face problems obtaining a visa to return to Tel Aviv and have to start queuing at the checkpoint in the early hours of the morning to attend their post-transplant appointments; Gaza patients are kept on site post-transplant due to difficulties returning back to Israel for follow up appointments.
The differences and issues specific to the area were interesting to see although there were plenty of similarities between our two centres: the patients face the same challenges that come with having a bone marrow transplant.
It was a great experience overall and I was very well looked after by Simone. I would recommend the experience to any BMT nurse who has the opportunity to spend time at a different centre overseas.