Son helps dad fight cancer with milestone bone marrow transplant

An older man lays on a hospital bed. Beside him stand two men and three female nurses.
(L-R) Emma Cahill, Ben and Gary Wylie, Dr Duncan Purtill, Diane Sutherland and Jessica King.
April 9, 2021

Ben Wylie didn’t think twice when the opportunity arose to help with his dad Gary’s cancer treatment.

Last week Ben and Gary, who has acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), became the 500th bone marrow transplant donor and recipient at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH).

FSH Haematology Nurse Unit Manager, Marion Bamblett, said since the opening of the unit in 2015 the team had conducted around 100 transplants per year.

“The whole FSH haematology team are proud of reaching this significant milestone and the patient lives that have been dramatically improved as a result,” Marion said.

“Bone marrow transplants are essential to help the patient’s body regenerate post-chemotherapy treatment and the treatment can extend their lives.”

A former Albany primary school teacher, Gary was looking forward to spending his retirement travelling with wife Karen when what started as aplastic anaemia progressed into AML in 2020. 

FSH Clinical Haematology Consultant, Dr Duncan Purtill, arranged for Gary to have chemotherapy injections and tablets at Albany Hospital’s oncology centre, followed by a bone marrow transplant at FSH.

After being unable to find a bone marrow match worldwide, it was suggested Gary ask his family members to take a test for a potential match to be an allogenic donor.

Gary’s son Ben and his daughter were both a partial match and the treatment team recommended the male to male transfer as more effective.

Ben, who also works at the Telethon Kids Cancer Centre, had to prepare his body for bone marrow extraction with multiple stem cell growth factor injections but said it was a small act to help his dad fight cancer.

“When I found out that my bone marrow could be effective in dad’s treatment, there was no question – it was an easy decision,” Ben said.

Gary said his son Ben just got on with the bone marrow transplant and he was so proud of him for helping to extend his life.

Gary will spend the next few weeks recovering from his transplant at FSH before heading home to Albany.

“I’m looking forward to feeling well again, going camping, and travelling – I’d like to go back to India one day too,” Gary said.

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