When Winship hematologist Dr. Elliott Winton sat down to recall how the bone marrow and stem cell transplant program at Emory was launched in 1979, he clearly remembered one of his first patients to receive a transplant, Joyce Wilson. Wilson, from the Dalton, Georgia area, was only 23 and had a 2-year-old daughter when she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and referred to Emory for treatment.
"My anemia had progressed to such a point that I wasn't given a lot of options. This was an option to save my life," said Wilson.
Winship's Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center was one of the first of its kind in the country. Winship celebrated its 5,000th transplant patient in 2016 and marked the milestone by planting 5,000 flags on the Emory School of Medicine lawn. The celebratory event brought together many early transplant patients with the doctors and nurses who had cared for them.
"These people were such a big part of my life, they gave me my life with my family. I still feel that sense of importance to have been in the program early on," said Wilson.
In the beginning, only a few transplants were performed each year. Today, Winship performs this life-saving procedure for over 430 patients a year.
Joyce Wilson with Dr. Elliott Winton during Winship's celebration of the 5,000th transplant patient in 2016.