Memphis woman with rare auto immune disease receives first stem cell transplant at Baptist

Watch: Woman received transplant to help with conditions

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis woman is now on the road to recovery after receiving a stem cell transplant to help save her life.

In 2010 Shandrea Henley was diagnosed with Scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease that can cause a person’s skin and organs to harden.

For years Henley has struggled to find effective treatments to fight off her disease. She struggled with discoloration, tightening of the skin and painful soars on her hands forcing her to give up her dream career.

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"I use to always want to go to hair school until the scleroderma kicked in I had a change of thought,” said Henley.

After several failed attempts to treat her condition, Shandrea was referred to Dr. Muhammad Raza, an hematologist, and oncologist at Baptist Cancer Center.

“She was at that stage where she was losing hope, nothing else was working,” said Raza.

Dr. Raza said for people scleroderma typically don't have effective treatments to manage their disease. He performed the first stem cell transplant on Shandrea in May.

“We collect the patients stem cells, and then we give the patient immune suppressive therapy and other medication which is called ADGE along with radiation.  We are trying to deplete patient's own immune system which is acting against the patient’s organs and replace that with her stem cells,” said Raza.

The Baptist Cancer Center said patients with scleroderma are more than 30% more chance to live after six years of the transplant than those who don't have it.

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As for Shandrea she said she is already seeing improvements.

“It helped with the skin discoloration, my face had a lot of discolorations before the transplant, I don’t have that anymore. It helped with the skin tightness. It didn’t do much for the lungs, but it did help,” said Henley.

Shandrea is also in need of a lung and is now hoping to get on the organ donor list. Doctors are hoping the stem cell transplant will help her lung function over time.