My name is Chantel Chaisson, I am 29 years old and a resident of Toronto; this is my story of how I became a TTP survivor!
In the Fall of 2005 I underwent a surgery that would change my life in so many ways. After years of struggling with weight issues at 22 years old and 325 lbs., I decided to undergo gastric banding weight loss surgery. Although I had never had any serious medical issues up until that point I knew I was headed down a long road of health complications if I didn’t do something. After researching the surgery I was to have I was diligent in losing as much weight as possible before the surgery and completed my Dr’s physicals as required. Sometime in August before the surgery I was put on a higher dose birth control pill to ensure its effectiveness due to my being overweight. I was very excited the days leading up to the weight loss surgery as I was ready to turn a new leaf and start placing more importance on my health. I was also nervous as I had never even been overnight in the hospital before never mind a surgical procedure. I passed the Dr’s physical weeks before the surgery date with no noted issues but nothing prepared us for what was to be found on surgery day...
I remember waking up from my laparoscopic surgery knowing something was not right. I knew that something had not gone according to plan. My surgeon came to my bedside to explain that they were unable to insert my gastric band because they found a very large ovarian cyst that would need to be removed first. After several tests that day the Dr’s estimated that this cyst had been there for quite some time based on the size. I was then scheduled for a double surgery in the next couple of weeks to remove the cyst and place the band. Upon removing the ovarian cyst, five litres of fluid was drained from it, it was massive and taking up most of my body cavity. Because of the length of the surgery I was kept overnight in the hospital and needed a catheter. I was released the next day to recover slowly at home. I was recovering well at home the first few weeks taking it easy and relaxing. Almost four weeks to the day of surgery I started feeling very unwell. I was having very bad headaches all day, extreme exhaustion, sensitivity to light and sound and no appetite. All I wanted to do was sleep. Two of my family members took me to a clinic where a urine sample identified that I had a bad urinary tract infection (probably from the post surgery catheter). I was given antibiotics and sent home. That night I noticed bruising on my arms and legs. When I woke up the next morning I was even worse. I remember thinking I have to take those antibiotics so I can start feeling better. I stumbled into the kitchen not realizing the severity of my state through blurred vision, and passed out at my kitchen table. Luckily my cousin was home and called another family member to help her get me to the hospital. I don’t remember getting into the car or being admitted to the hospital.
The triage nurse and doctors were baffled when my blood work came back with such low platelets. I had the symptoms of someone who had just sustained major body trauma and was bleeding out, except there was no blood. Because I was taken to a local community hospital that did not have an extensive hematology unit, I was not properly diagnosed. In fact I was gravely ill while I spent almost a week there and I remember very little. My legs and arms were covered in bruises, petechia, and I was very jaundice. After almost a week, and getting sicker by the minute, I was finally transferred to a big city hospital after much pleading from my mother. I would have been sent sooner had there been more beds available. Once transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton I was seen by the Head of Hematology and diagnosed within a couple of hours with TTP and subsequently started apheresis treatment. I almost didn’t make it through the night. What a scare for my family. I began receiving twice daily aphaeresis treatments with a whole blood transfusion in between. Much of this part was a blur to me still. After a month in the hospital, two relapses, one grand mal seizure, two central lines and close to forty plasma exchanges/blood transfusions my platelets and creatinine levels started to stabilize. On December 25th 2005 I was able to visit home on a day pass after being hospitalized for a month. I was determined to beat my TTP. I was an out-patient for another month. At first I received daily apheresis treatments which were weaned over time along with the prednisone.
My bout with TTP was a nasty battle, one that without great doctors and solid family of support, I don’t think I could’ve made it thru. I am happy to say I have not relapsed since. I am healthy and happy and am so thankful for my second chance at life.
As a way to try to give back, I work with Canadian Blood Services to encourage and thank donors, because without them I would not be alive today. As with most cases we have no idea what triggered my TTP and I hope to never encounter it again. Going through this medical nightmare has definitely made me listen to my body more, and has made me a stronger person. My heart goes out to those affected by TTP and their loved ones. High platelets to you all! xoxo