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Every year, as many as 10,000 people suffering from leukemia come to Poland. Some people get chemotherapy, others are helped by radiation therapy or new generation drugs. But it also happens that the only salvation for a sick person is another person. A man who agrees to donate his marrow voluntarily. The problem is … it's very hard to find such a man. Monika Sankowska has been an expert in this field for years.

Those who managed to win with leukemia say straightforwardly: if you get sick, put yourself in the hands of Monika Sankowska, because if there is your genetic twin somewhere in the world, she will find it. Monika's adventure with hematology began over 20 years ago. She received an offer to select bone marrow donors for transplantation. The very first results of her work were very promising. The originalmethods of genetic donor typingmade it possible in 1997 to perform the first Polish marrow transplant from an unrelated person.

-Selection of unrelated bone marrow donorsis the highest driving school in immunogenetics - recalls Monika. - There were no such opportunities at the Academy, so I decided to move to the private company Medigen, with which I am still involved. In the 1990s, the procedures for selecting unrelated bone marrow donors were not financed by the state. People had to pay for very expensive research themselves. They looked for help abroad, they sold what they had to save a child, brother, wife and husband. In the "Poltransplanta" (Organizational and Coordination Center for Transplantation under the responsibility of the Minister of He alth), I created a Donor Register. Together with Bożena Barcikowska, the then deputy director of "Poltransplantu", we developed a system of financing the selection of bone marrow donors. Since 2000, the money for this purpose is in the budget. By building the donor selection system, Monika Sankowska made many enemies, but in 2012 she was awarded the Golden Cross for Contribution to the Development of Polish Transplantology.

Leukemia is treated with statistics

This is what Monika Sankowska and Leszek Kauc wrote in one of their books. Whether a patient can easily find a donor depends on the frequency of his transplant genes. Each patient is different, each is unique, and therefore it can happen that it is extremely difficult to find the right donor. But Medigen's statistics show that more than 95% of patients find it. -We are looking for them in all the world's bone marrow donor registries - explains Monika. - It is a community of over 27 million people. Hematopoietic cell transplantation is a life-saving procedure in over 100 diseases. In Medigen, it is possible to find a donor for over 60% of patients within 2.5 weeks. And time is of the essence of life! - But not only time is important - adds Monika. - Our center has the necessary certificates that confirm the high quality of work. This, in turn, gives us access to all donor bases in the world and builds the trust of patients who entrust us with their lives. Thanks to our reliable work, this year we came second in the world in terms of the effectiveness of donor selection. Right after Japan.

Searching for a bone marrow donor is a race against time

Until recently, it was not possible to perform a bone marrow transplant if the ideal donor was not found. It is done today. It is a miracle of modern medicine.

- The progress made in transplantology itself, but also in related fields of knowledge, makes it possible to quickly find a donor for a person who, simplifying, has popular genes - says Monika. Difficulties arise when it comes to selecting a donor for a person with a rare genotype. The worst thing is when there is no donor at all in the world registers. This is a challenge, but we like it very much: we find donors for the sick for whom others have failed. It is necessary to find a donor whose transplant antigens will be liked by the recipient's antigens. It's like adding milk to the soup instead of cream. We don't spoil the taste, and the soup is soup. Let me put it another way: we are looking for a donor whose genes will be tolerated by the patient's genes. In addition, by administering appropriate medications, we strengthen this tolerance. A transplant that is performed with incomplete compliance is theoretically more dangerous for the patient. But leukemia is a disease that progresses very quickly. The sick person dies in front of the eyes. Time is then decisive. You can search for the perfect donor for several years, and at the end of this search it may turn out that there is no one to give his bone marrow to. That is why transplants are performed with incomplete antigen compatibility. Although these are difficult procedures, they are successfully performed in Poland. For adults, in clinics in Katowice, Poznań, and Kraków, and for children, in children's clinics in Wrocław, Kraków and Bydgoszcz.

Marrow to the Summit

NZOZ Medigen and the Foundation Against Leukemia are two independent entities, but connected by the idea of ​​helping sick people. Medigen, led by dr hab. Leszek Kauc is primarily a highly specialized laboratory. The Foundation supports patients, suggests the best solutions, and popularizesthe idea of ​​bone marrow donation.

- In 2014, we organized an amazing expedition called Szpik to the Summit - says Monika. - This is the first ever expedition to the summit of Kilimanjaro in which bone marrow recipients and donors as well as their transplantologists participated. The success of the participants of this expedition is great. They overcame their weaknesses, their own powerlessness, their fear. They showed themselves and others that now nothing will stop them in their pursuit of life's dreams and plans. But the expedition also gave the sick a lot of hope. I remember a call from a girl who was in solitary at that time. She told me: Mrs. They succeeded, and I can do it too. For such moments it is worth struggling, it is worth spending time in the laboratory, studying numbers, conducting research, constantly learning, gaining new experiences. All this to be able to help people, because the patient is the most important.

According to an expertMonika Sankowska

  • As a child, I wanted to be…
  • A painter or writer. Grandma wrote something all the time. Grandfather was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts, but ended up as a historian. Mom makes beautiful stained glass. I studied painting with them, but almost by accident I got into the Medical Academy to study medical analyst.

  • My published books are …
  • I am fascinated by recent history, so I choose books by Sławomir Cenckiewicz, professor Andrzej Nowak. I keep reading Wańkowicz and Agatha Christie, because in their books everything is logical, it follows one another. I am a humanist and my work requires logical and very precise thinking. The third position is the Trilogy, love brought from home.

  • I thought about medicine as a career for the first time …
  • When I received my Academy diploma, I did not associate my life plans with medicine. I wanted to go to Paris to study painting, but my parents and prof. Witold Rudowski (a friend of my grandparents), an excellent surgeon and transfusion specialist, "encouraged" me to start working in the molecular research laboratory that was being built. This is how I found myself under the wing of prof. Halina Seyfriedowa and I became …

  • My guides during my studies and during the first years of work were …
  • Prof. Seyfriedow, who saw in me something more than just a rebellious girl, reluctant to medicine. Later, I met Dr. hab. Leszek Kauc, who taught me genetics from scratch. Prof. Wladimir Koza, a late hematologist and transplantologist, never spared us time - he examined our patients, made everything he had achieved available to friends from Poland. My father -master of management (now retired) - he always supports me in all my most abstract ideas, he taught me courage in making decisions.

  • The most important thing for a medical analyst is …
  • Patient. In modern medicine, disease cases are considered, forgetting that a person is sick, not a coincidence. A man who has feelings, who is afraid and needs help. Hope I never forget it.

  • I don't tolerate at work …
  • Many things. I am a very demanding boss. Maybe it's also difficult, but we don't work in a pasta wholesaler. Here you need to focus, concentrate as much as possible, because the research we do determines human life. I do not tolerate incompetence and a loose approach to work. Everyone needs to know what they are coming here for and what to do.

  • I am happy when …
  • When I can be at my house, cook something delicious for my family or friends, when I can go for a long walk or, free from everyday problems, immerse myself in reading.

    monthly "Zdrowie"

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