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09/08/2010

Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)

Two weeks ago I went into my doctor for the standard 16 week appointment, where they take your blood and test you for anything and everything. I totally rocked the blood draw part, as only a few tears were shed and I managed to avoid a panic attack, which is what I had when I was in the emergency room just a few months before. (Dr. U had walked into the ER room where I was and said, “Why do you have oxygen?” I had to sheepishly answer it was because I got an IV and blood drawn . . . What? Getting blood drawn doesn’t constitute getting oxygen?)

After my standard check-up appointment I left for a quick work trip to Philadelphia. Two days later I was waiting on my flight home, letting the time pass by talking to Cody. All of a sudden Dr. U’s office number beeped through. My heart immediately jumped as doctor's offices rarely call with good news.

The nurse started off by telling me that I tested negative for HIV (Ummm . . . thanks, since I wasn't nervous about that result) and then reminded me that blood disorders were a part of the test. She said my platelet count was low, around 77k, and it should have been between 150k-400k. They wanted me to go see an oncologist to get some additional testing.

Nothing like getting little explanation when a bombshell is dropped . . . I spent the next two hours at the airport talking to Cody, who was busy Googling low platelet counts, reading different information to me so we could figure out what that meant. A few things we found:

  1. Most oncologists (cancer doctors) are also hematologists (blood doctors) so going to an oncologist wasn't anything to freak out over
  2. It could be a total fluke, since most offices mail out their blood to get tested. If the blood clotted too quickly, I could have a wrong result of low platelet counts
  3. It could be gestational (pregnancy-only) and not a chronic condition
  4. Knowing low platelet counts early means they can plan accordingly for your pregnancy

The following Monday I was able to confirm my oncologist appointment, which was scheduled for yesterday afternoon. We had a 1pm appointment and got home at around 4pm. It took forever.

After a long talk and a physical exam with the oncologist, Dr. A, he wanted to do another blood test to confirm that the low count wasn’t a fluke. I suffered through another seven vials of blood and sure enough, my platelet count came in at 86k.

It's called "Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura" or ITP. For whatever reason, and they don't know why, my auto-immune system attacks my blood platelets. Platelets are essential for blood clotting, which is why pregnant women are tested. You lose a lot of blood during delivery and they have to make sure that my body will be able to stop the bleeding. At this point, I'm not sure what it exactly all means. I've Googled it to death and have an idea of the different possibilities, but it will be good to dive into this with my doctors and see what it really means for me.

The good news . . . After sitting in the same waiting room as a lot of cancer patients, I feel very fortunate as I'd take ITP any day over the many other diseases that people suffer from. We have a good team in place, Dr. A (the oncologist/hematologist) and Dr. U (my OB/GYN) so hopefully over the next few weeks we'll figure out what we need to do.

Until then, I'll work on preparing myself for the epidural-free birth. I'm not sure who will have it worse . . . me, or Cody suffering through my screams!

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