Saturday, April 25, 2009


I was just past 15 the next time I got really "sick."

I had been camping in Southern Utah with my parents and girlfriends over Easter break... I think that was the year we stayed at Dead Horse State Park and went traipsing around Arches and the "Fiery Furnace" hike. It snowed (my best friend Jill had a magic tent that conjured the snow) and we ran around and had fun. I still have some great photos. My friend Jen also barfed on the (naturally very cute) park ranger on that trip, too. Mom and dad stayed in the camper and made us wonderful hot food and lots of cocoa.

I had had blood tests the week before, and when I returned home (this was 1986, remember, no cell phones and my parents didn't even have an answering machine) there was an urgent call from the doctor. My platelet count was extreeeeeeeemely low. Like, if I had had a bruise or a cut I would have probably bled to death. That low.

The diagnosis (more blood tests! ultrasounds!) was acute thrombocytopenia... that is, that an abnormally high number of platelets were being removed from my blood by a terrifically enlarged spleen. This happens sometimes in people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, too. I had been on relatively low maintenance levels of prednisone for a little over a year, but of course the main treatment option at the time was to pump me full of the 'roids again to see if my spleen could be beaten down.

This made me a very chipmunky person for Junior year play. This also resulted in a series of photos from my trip to Europe that summer that ... well, it's not all that easy to recognize me in them. (And thank goodness, because boy, I had TERRIBLE clothes!)

Unfortunately, the drugs did not bring the thrombocytopenia under control. About the time of my 16th birthday, it was recommended that I have surgery to remove my spleen. We were able to schedule it for Christmas break (oh yeah!) so I could miss as few of my senior year classes as possible. That was my first experience with general anesthesia, multi-day hospital stays, and the irritation of a naso-gastric tube. Also I learned that nurses and "rounders" appreciate candy and suction-cup dart guns, and that morphine is a lovely lovely thing and can elevate bad Disney movies (Journey of Natty Gann) to high art. (Hee hee hee, "high" art...)

An ironic thing now is that since tx I have had to take a daily aspirin to keep my platelets under control. They have never been high since the splenectomy, but now that I have a liver that's actually doing its job, I have platelets galore. Aspirin makes them less sticky, and less likely to clot.

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