10th Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant Patient Back to Golfing Thanks to UC

Dennis Rebennack golfing

Dennis Rebennack is back on the golf course thanks to his allogeneic stem cell transplant at the UC Health’s George L. Strike Bone Marrow Transplant Center.

Retired Pastor Dennis Rebennack, 68, or “Den” to his friends and family, doesn’t claim to be a golf pro, but that’s never stopped him from playing the game and volunteering at Miami Whitewater Forest Golf Course.
However, an early morning out on the green one day last October left Rebennack feeling like something was amiss.
“After returning home, I passed out and the life squad was called,” Rebennack says, adding that the fall was so bad they thought he may have broken his neck. However, while his bones were intact, blood work done within the emergency department at University of Cincinnati (UC) Medical Center revealed a larger problem.
“Two days after my spill and after being admitted to the hospital, it was confirmed: I had leukemia,” he says.
“We were devastated,” says his wife Barb, a retired nurse. “The diagnosis was made, (the catheter for chemotherapy) was placed and treatment began within the first 24 hours. We had no time to process this new situation.” Rebennack spent the next 30 days in the hospital.
After his first extended hospital stay, he made many long visits for follow-up treatment at the UC Cancer Institute and to see his oncologist Stephen Medlin, MD, associate professor in the Division of Hematology Oncology at the UC College of Medicine.
The chemotherapy treatments, which were administered five days a week, were in preparation for an allogeneic stem cell transplant—otherwise known as a bone marrow transplant. Physicians wanted there to be less than 5 percent of leukemia cells detected in Rebennack’s marrow before the transplant was performed.
He would be the tenth patient receiving this type of transplant at the UC Health’s George L. Strike Bone Marrow Transplant Center.
Allogeneic stem cell transplant involves the infusion of stem cells from a matched related or unrelated donor, as opposed to autologous stem cell transplantation, in which the stem cells come from the patient being treated.
Barb says her husband’s donor was from Germany.
“We don’t know her identity, but we do know she was a young donor,” Barb says, adding that Rebennack received his transplant March 4 after months of waiting. “There’s so much coordination involved. The stem cells were harvested from the donor on Wednesday and Thursday, then Den received five million stem cells just hours later.”
While the actual transplant was over in about half an hour, Rebennack was still required to be hospitalized for an additional 18 days for monitoring and to regain his strength.
“They said he’d need to stay four to six weeks, but Den is a man who makes a goal and achieves it,” Barb says. “He said, ‘I’ll be out in three weeks,’ and sure enough, three weeks and one day later, he was leaving the hospital.”
Medlin continues to monitor and evaluate Rebennack, but he’s making strides in his health and tries to stay as active as possible.
In fact, he was even able to make it back to the golf course in July.
Rebennack says he couldn’t have done it without his wonderful wife and children, Greg, Jen and Mark and their spouses. In fact, his daughter Jen quit her job to help her dad when he was diagnosed. Additionally, Rebennack has nothing but kind words for the physicians and staff at the UC Cancer Institute.
“The system is just incredible, and not only is Dr. Medlin magnificent, but the nurses and other staff members are just so kind and compassionate,” he says. “There would be days I’d go into the clinic in a wheelchair and walk out hours later because of the treatment I received. They took care of me in so many ways, reminding me to take my oral medications, laughed with me, sometimes just listened to me, educated me on my disease and always showed respect. They became trusted extended family.”
“Words truly cannot express how blessed and thankful I am for receiving such wonderful care at UC.”
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