August 30, 2019
The mountains of New Mexico provide a beautiful backdrop for Charles Norris’ daily mile-long walks. After spending 6 months in 2005 as a patient in the blood and marrow transplant program (BMT) at The University of Kansas Hospital, he enjoys every step.
As he slowly makes his way up the driveway to his home near Albuquerque, Charles' thoughts often drift back to his time in the hospital – the same hospital where he once was an ear, nose and throat surgeon, ENT department chair and chief of staff. He retired in 1998.
During his treatment, Charles received a lifesaving stem cell transplant for follicular lymphoma, a subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Blood cell or marrow transplantation is a potentially lifesaving treatment for lymphoma, leukemia and other blood diseases.
Charles’ therapy replaced his unhealthy blood cells with his own frozen blood cells, which had been saved prior to chemotherapy and radiation years earlier. The healthy cells travel to the marrow, where they begin to function and multiply.
Despite the success of the transplant, Charles hit a few potholes on the road to recovery. Complications from earlier chemotherapy and radiation treatments and a recurrence of his disease resulted in pressure on his spinal cord. He also endured pneumonia, kidney failure and problems with swallowing. Partially paralyzed and weak, Charles spent several months in bed.
Yet with determination and support from his wife, Linda, and son, Erik, he gradually regained his strength and learned to navigate without a wheelchair or walker. Today, Charles' daily walks represent a true triumph.
“It was a saga,” he declares with a small laugh that reveals his positive attitude toward the ordeal. “I feel very fortunate. The care I received here was exceptional. It was a team effort. I think I saw all of the hematologists – many of them old friends – and most of the consult services at least once.”
Charles offers special praise for Stephen Williamson, MD, hematology/oncology, as well as affection for his wife and son, who visited daily during his hospital stay. He also expresses appreciation for the nurses and rehabilitation professionals who helped him recover. “They all get 5 stars,” he says.
Charles is 1 of thousands of adult and pediatric transplant patients to receive treatment in the BMT program since 1977. The state-of-the-art program pioneered the advancement of bone marrow and peripheral stem cell transplantation in the Kansas City region. It was the 1st in the area to receive accreditation by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy.
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To make an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, call 913-588-1227.