Sam Pickett’s Northside experience began in the spring of 2019. For the prior eight years, he had been treated out of state for three different blood disorders — polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia and fibrosis.
Suddenly, his body stopped responding to treatment. His local doctor in Thomasville, Georgia knew Sam needed more help, but there was an 8-10-week wait to see an oncologist. Sam couldn’t wait.
“My daughter, who worked with transplant patients at The Blood & Marrow Transplant Group of Georgia, became concerned due to my appearance,” said Sam.
Sam’s daughter shared his medical records with Dr. Melhem Solh, who recommended Sam undergo extensive bloodwork and a bone marrow biopsy.
In May 2019, Sam underwent a bone marrow biopsy at Northside Hospital Atlanta.
Two weeks later, he and his wife, Nancy met with Dr. Scott Solomon, who would become Sam’s primary oncologist. Dr. Solomon informed Sam he had a blood cancer, myelofibrosis, for which there is no cure. The only option for continued quality of life was a stem cell transplant — sooner rather than later, as Sam’s health continued to steadily decline.
“Dr. Solomon was very thorough in explaining what could happen if I chose to proceed with the transplant,” said Sam. “There were no guarantees.”
Sam and Nancy had so many concerns, questions and apprehension as they were told they had to relocate temporarily to within 50 miles of Northside.
“We had to think about our personal finances, health insurance, retirement and a place to live in Atlanta,” said Sam. “What about a donor match? Fortunately, one of my brothers was a 10/10 match.”
Dr. Solomon called it “a gift from God.”
As the move to Atlanta approached, Sam’s friends back home in Thomasville provided a tremendous sense of relief.
“These friends volunteered to look after our home, mow the lawn, trim the hedges and even paint the fence. A very special friend collected our mail daily and mailed it to us once a week.”
On March 3, 2020, with the transplant infusion, Sam says he began the trip to seek “quality of life.”
However, a complication six days later necessitated Sam be admitted to the hospital, where he remained for 28 days.
Sam describes his experience in the Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit at Northside as “exceptional.”
“Our experience was with the most caring group of people, who were constantly reinforced with each shift change and each day,” said Sam. “My treatment was phenomenal. … Great people!”
After seven months in Atlanta, Sam finally was released to return home to South Georgia. The same friends from Thomasville traveled to Atlanta and helped move them back.
Sam continued to travel to Atlanta for weekly appointments until Dr. Solomon felt he was ready to return to the care and supervision of his local physicians.
Three years later, Sam is in complete remission. He is back to normal with his daily routine of part-time work and exercise. He and Nancy love spending time with their six grandchildren and getting to the Gulf Coast as much as possible.
He gives all of the credit to the Lord, his oncologists, nurses and staff at Blood & Marrow Transplant Group of Georgia, whom he calls “exceptional people and professionals.”
“This organization of health care providers truly excel at their jobs as they work with cancer patients."
* The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50% five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.