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Rehabilitation and transplant


Preparing for a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant

A bone marrow (stem cell) transplant has been recommended as the best treatment for your child. The transplant process is physically demanding. There are steps however that you can take to help your child maintain strength, flexibility, and endurance throughout treatment.

Regular exercise in the weeks before a transplant will help your child go into the transplant in the best physical shape possible. Exercises should include ones that your child enjoys. Younger children will benefit from playground activities and tricycle riding. Activities for older children and teens may include running, biking, or a vigorous walk. Check with your clinic and physical therapist to learn which activities are allowed for your child.

While in the hospital

The level of physical therapy that each patient receives will vary, depending on the child’s disease, the type of transplant being performed, and the child’s response to the transplant process. 

Before transplant, a physical therapist will assess your child for strength, flexibility, and endurance. This staff member knows what is “normal” for different age groups. With this understanding, the physical therapist can test your child’s abilities before transplant and measure changes during your child’s time in the hospital.

Exercise will help:

  • Prevent dangerous health problems caused by prolonged bed rest, such as pneumonia and blood clots;
  • Keep your child’s muscles strong and flexible;
  • Improve blood movement in the body and improve lung function (a respiratory therapist will help teach proper lung exercises);
  • Improve appetite;
  • Decrease stress; and
  • Help your child maintain a level of independence in everyday tasks.

Daily requirements

Because activity is so important to maintain health, exercise will be a mandatory part of your child’s daily routine on the transplant unit. A physical therapist will meet with your child 3–5 times per week as part of the transplant protocol.

Your child will be required to:

  • Walk at least 5 laps around the floor during the course of the day;
  • Wear supportive shoes while walking laps in the halls and during physical therapy;
  • Bring supportive leg braces if already provided; and
  • Sit up in a chair and take part in room activity at least 4 hours per day.

Sometimes your child might feel too ill to get out of bed. At these times, the physical therapist will focus on bed exercises and helping your child move out of bed to the chair as able.

Tips for family and friends

Family and friends are a primary part of your child’s life and will play an important role in your child’s recovery process. These are ways that family members and friends can help:

  • Respect your child’s desire to be involved in goal and decision making.
  • Help explain medical processes in a simple way.
  • Support and reassure your child during times of feeling afraid.
  • Encourage your child to keep taking part in activities.
  • Develop a daily schedule.
    • This can serve as a reminder of what is expected each day and provide clear direction for activities.
    • This allows your child to feel control over his days and may increase his willingness to take part in activity.
    • This may include opening the blinds each morning, getting out of bed at the same time each day, watching a favorite TV show, and walking at a certain time daily.


If you have questions about the need for rehab services before, during, or after a transplant, please call Rehabilitation Services. If you are inside the hospital, dial 3621. In the local area, dial 901-595-3621. If you are outside the Memphis area, call toll-free 1-866-2ST-JUDE (1-866-278-5833), extension 3621.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).