Carlos Zayas, M.D., a transplant nephrologist and chief scientific officer at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, works tirelessly to help his patients who need organ transplants. Then, two years ago, he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and learned that he needed a bone marrow transplant.
“It was an overwhelming feeling. I have worked very hard for my program and my family. I was paralyzed for a minute,” he said.
Dr. Zayas’ physicians predicted that his survival rate was less than 10 percent and his relapse rate was more 90 percent.
Despite these odds, Dr. Zayas says, “I decided that this was an opportunity to grow and do more things. So even though I was sick, I was still working. I would come in [to work] in the mornings and see patients. I would get my chemo, and then come back to see more patients. During that period, I intensified some of my activity. I tried to at least make a difference for whatever time I had left to live.”
His initial chemotherapy treatment was provided at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. Eventually he was sent to the University of Nebraska where he received the completion of his chemotherapy treatment and first bone marrow transplant.
What would Dr. Zayas tell patients who receive a cancer diagnosis?
“The first thing I learned is the diagnosis of cancer doesn’t mean that you’re going to die.”
He emphasizes that many forms of cancer are treatable and can be managed as chronic conditions.
He credits the love and support of his friends and family, as well as his faith, for helping him get through this difficult time.
“At this point, I feel that I have been given a second chance to serve patients through the miracle of transplantation, which is an irony.”
Dr. Zayas says his mission is to help educate certain populations, especially minorities, about transplantation and about healthcare.
“A lot of little miracles have come from this very long and very difficult experience, but I’m very thankful and happy to be alive.”
Bone Marrow Transplant Facts:
- Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is a special therapy for patients with cancer or other diseases which affect the bone marrow. The goal of BMT is to transfuse healthy bone marrow cells into a person after their own unhealthy bone marrow has been eliminated (through chemotherapy or radiation treatment).
- A genetic match is needed for a patient’s body to accept the donated, healthy cells.
- Donors with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are especially needed because patients are more likely to match someone of the same background.
- Bone marrow can be donated in one of two ways, depending on the circumstance: through a surgical procedure or blood donation.
- To join the bone marrow registry, you can register online, then you will receive a registration kit to give a swab of your cheek cells. When you register as a donor, donating is always voluntary.
- For more information on bone marrow transplantation or to join the registry, visit www.bethematch.org.