Machine offers relief for Illawarra patients

By 2013-03-19 News No Comments

Karen Cox feels like part of the furniture at Wollongong Hospital.

She’s there every two weeks, hooked up to a state-of-the-art machine to rid her plasma of destructive antibodies.

Without the regular treatment, the Albion Park woman would often find herself in anaphylactic shock.

“I have a reaction like a really bad food allergy and end up at the casualty department,” she said.

“My body is making antibodies that are attacking my system, so the machine takes the plasma out and reduces the antibody load.

“I’ve been having this treatment every two weeks since 2008 and my symptoms are less severe and don’t happen anywhere near as often.”

For three hours each session, Ms Cox is hooked up to a $60,000 apheresis machine, one of two donated to the hospital by the Illawarra Cancer Carers.

Transplant co-ordinator Fran Owen said the new machine, the Spectra Optia, was a lighter, more streamlined piece of equipment using state-of-the-art technology to separate blood cellular components to treat various conditions.

Plasma exchange therapy is used in rare autoimmune conditions and cellular depletion is needed to treat conditions such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

It is also used in patients with haematologic disorders.

In 2012 a total of 236 procedures were performed at the hospital, including 42 stem-cell collection and 194 plasma exchange procedures.

Ms Owen said the main advantage of the new machine was the reduced risk of collecting unnecessary cell components from the patient.

“In other words, this reduces the risk of the patient suffering from anaemia or low platelet counts immediately after collection,” she said.

For Mrs Cox, the mere fact the machines are in Wollongong is something for which she will always be grateful.

“Specialists told me, when they found out I had the condition, that I’d have to go to Sydney for the treatment,” she said.

“So when they became available in Wollongong, that was a big relief.”