Emory’s Bone Marrow Transplant Team Turns Despair into Hope

Debbie Barth suffered from aplastic anemia, a disease in which bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells, and she was getting worse. She had had blood infusion after blood infusion, but they no longer helped her. She was possibly facing death after two years of living with the illness.

Debbie was being treated at an Atlanta hospital where doctors told her they would not give her a bone marrow transplant, which was her only real hope for surviving the chronic condition that was stealing more of her life each day.

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient

Debbie Barth, pictured at far left behind her mother Joanie, with family.

“I was at the end of my rope, and they wouldn’t even take me,” Debbie said, still incredulous that she could be turned away for what could be live-saving care.

Fortunately for Debbie and her family, someone told her about Dr. Edmund K. Waller at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center. She made an appointment to see him, and that’s when everything changed.

Debbie’s mother Joanie went to the appointment with her. Debbie was again skeptical to hear what a doctor had to say, but this time it was good news. “I can’t tell you how I felt when we got into that room with him that first day,” said Joanie Barth.

“Instead of saying there was no hope,” she recalls, with the help of a bone marrow transplant, “Dr. Waller said my daughter had a “50% to 80% chance of survival.”

“And I said, ‘Dr. Waller, can you tell me whether it’s closer to 50 or 80?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Ms. Barth, Debbie is going to make it.’”

“I just started crying and crying because for the first time, we had hope,” Joanie Barth said. “When he spoke the whole room just filled with hope.”

Many patients like Debbie, who had been told she was too high-risk for a transplant, arrive at the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center having exhausted all other options and time. Some have been turned away from other bone marrow treatment centers because their cases are extremely complicated, or because their prognoses are not good. Now, for patients like Debbie, there is hope.

The Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center is one of the most experienced in the nation, with a team of dedicated physicians who treat patients and not just the disease. With experience unmatched in the Southeast for treating hematologic cancers, the Winship team is expert in treating the even the most complicated of cases. This fall, Winship physicians will perform their 4,000th bone marrow transplant.

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  • cindy

    My daughter was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia when she was younger. She will be 20 this month. We have been referred to Emory for treatment/transplant options. Praying they take her on as a patient.

    Congrats to the team on their 4000 transplant and to Debbie and her family. May you have a long happy life.