Given the high risk of infection associated with stem cell transplants, it is very important that you, your visitors in the hospital and you friends and family at home are aware of the precautions that should be taken to prevent infection. Your immune system will be weak for some time, even after you return home. It is important that you continue to practice good infection prevention and standards of personal hygiene at all times.
When in hospital
DeBug hand sanitiser is in every room and in various places on the wards and around the rest of the hospital. Visitors should always wash their hands with sanitiser before and after entering your room.
Both you and your visitors should make sure they always maintain good hygiene, not just when entering and leaving your room. Always remember hand sanitiser is not a replacement for washing your hands with soap and water/
Patients in the haematology ward on level 5 at Peter Mac, or in the specialised ward at The Royal Melbourne Hospital will always have single rooms.
When you are neutropenic (at risk of infection) you may be instructed to remain in your room to protect you from infection. You can still get out of bed and visitors and staff can still come in and out as long as they was their hands.
If you have visitors coming to Peter Mac and they have a cold or flu, or cold- or flu-like symptoms, an upset stomach or have been in contact with anyone who has an infectious disease such as measles or chickenpox, kindly ask them to visit another time as they may pose a risk to you while you have a poor immune system.
If you're unsure if a loved one can visit, please ask your treating team. They can still call the hospital on 03 8559 5000 and ask to be transferred to your ward so they can talk to you over the phone.
Plants and flowers
We ask that no flowers be brought into the haematology ward, inpatient unit level 5 (IPU L5). Unfortunately flowers and plants cannot be kept in your room following a stem cell transplant as they are a potential infection risk.
We understand that friends and family like to show their support, it is good to politely let them know and suggest that they send or bring alternative gifts such as balloons or cards.
When you are in hospital and for some time after, there will be some precautions you should take with your food and cooking. Food should be properly and freshly cooked, especially meat and fish, and fruits (thick-skinned fruits that can be peeled are best) and vegetables should be thoroughly washed and cooked. Some foods such as salads, soft cheeses and raw seafood should be avoided all together.
Make sure you let your visitors know what you can and cannot eat if they are bringing food in for you and always check with your nurses on the ward if you are unsure.
Find out more about visitors at Peter Mac.
After discharge home
There are a number of simple things you can do to ensure your risk of infection is lowered after leaving the hospital:
- Regular hand washing
- Good personal hygiene including daily showers
- good mouth care and oral hygiene
- avoid contact with people who may have or have the symptoms of cold, flu and stomach bugs
- avoid people who have come into contact with children with chicken pox, measles or other viruses, or children who have recently had a live vaccine
- avoid garden soil and potting mix
- washing your hands after touching pets and avoid letting them lick you
- Follow the instructions to care for your CVAD if it is still in place when you return home
When to contact the hospital urgently
If it is a medical emergency call 000
If you have any of the following symptoms please contact Peter Mac urgently and ask for the registrar on call, on (03) 8559 5000:
- A temperature over 38˚C or fever and chills (these might indicate an infection)
- Diarrhoea or stomach cramps
- Persistent vomiting or nausea
- Any abnormal bruising and bleeding e.g. blood in you urine, bowel movements, bleeding gums or nose bleeds.
- Constipation: if you have not opened your bowels for more than two days
- Persistent cough or shortness of breath
- A persistent headache
- Unexplained and persistent soreness
- Pain, swelling, redness or puss around your central line
- A sudden decline in your health.
- A rash or itching
If you present to an emergency department, please ensure you let them know immediately that you have had a stem cell transplant and do not wait in the emergency cue.
This content was adapted from the Leukaemia Foundation's Guides for Patient and Families.