My name is Danielle Bourgeois, I am 23 years old and I live in Dieppe, New Brunswick.
In the summer of 2011, when I was about 20 weeks pregnant, all my symptoms began. I was working full time at a senior home doing the graveyard shift (7pm-7am). It never crossed my mind that I was having anything other then typical pregnancy symptoms - I couldn’t eat, I had pains in my stomach, I was very tired, always vomiting and constant headaches.
The morning of August 4, 2011, after I had finished working a 12 hour night shift, I complained to my mom of a really bad headache and then explained that I had noticed unexplainable bruises on my body. She told me to go rest and that she would contact the clinic to schedule an appointment for later in the afternoon. When my mom got home to take me to the appointment, I was still very tired and had spots on my face & chest (these turned out to be broken blood vessels).
When we got to the hospital, I still assumed that everything was fine and that everything I had been experiencing was normal. They did some blood work and then sent me home. They said if there was something wrong, they would call us back. My mom and I had just enough time to get something to eat when we received the call that would change everything, telling us to come right back to the hospital! So many things were going through my mind - was it my baby? Was it okay? When I arrived at the hospital, they told me that I would be admitted and couldn’t leave. As time ticked away, I became more and more nervous. They ran blood test after blood test and introduced me to several different doctors, who all looked at me with the same bewildered look. Finally after hours of waiting, I was given my diagnosis - TTP. I had no idea what it was but I knew deep down it wasn’t good just by the doctors’ facial expressions. They told me that my platelet count was at 7 and that I would need to be air lifted to Saint John Regional Hospital to receive aphaeresis treatments.
I remember arriving at the hospital and not knowing what to expect. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I couldn’t. Several nurses, doctors and residences were asking me questions to a point where I became completely overwhelmed and was no longer able to answer. I remember my family, who had driven while I was airlifted, finally arriving and I began to feel safe again. At 3 am, I was sent into surgery for the placement of my Hickman line and at 7 am my first treatment began. After three weeks of treatment, I started to feel like myself again and it was time to go home!
After being home for only a week, I started to feel my body weaken and knew it was coming back. I was right, and once again we made our way to the hospital in Saint John for more treatments. It was confirmed to me during my second stay in the hospital that I was expecting a little girl. The obstetrician also told us that my daughter was smaller than she should be and that he might have to preform a C-section in the next couple of weeks because of my health.
I was kept in the hospital for the remainder of August and had received 24 treatments by the time September arrived. I was released in September but returned for treatments twice a week until October.
On the morning of October 2nd, 2011, I was at home in Moncton when I began feeling very uncomfortable, with pain in my back. I was almost 28 weeks pregnant at this point. My mom decided that I should be taken to the hospital to be checked out. We waited several hours in emergency without being helped; no one seemed concerned when we told them I was a high-risk pregnancy and that I had recently been diagnosed with TTP. My mother and I decided to walk up on the 3rd floor to see if anything could be done. At the front desk we told them the same things we had told the emergency and thankfully they listened. They gave me a bed, hooked up monitors for the baby and did blood work. Once again they were shocked with the results, my platelets were at 5 and I had developed preeclampsia that had turned into HELLP syndrome.
Again, I was sent to Saint John for more treatments and to have a C-section. They had to give me several medications and two apheresis treatments before doing the c-section because they were concerned about my daughter’s development. On October 4th. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, weighing 1 pound, 14 ounces. The feeling of waking up after the C-section, knowing I was still alive and that I had a beautiful baby waiting to meet me for the first time, was the most indescribable feeling. Olivia stayed in the Saint John hospital for 4 weeks before being transferred to the neo-natal unit at the Moncton City Hospital, closer to our home. Finally, on December 4th, weighing only 4 pounds, she was released. Christmas came early for my family and I that year! I continued travelling to Saint John twice a week for treatments and relapsed again in March 2012. When all the treatments were done, I had received a total of 64 Aphaeresis treatments and 4 Chemo treatments, from August 2011 to April 2012.
Today, I can proudly say that I’ve been in remission since May 2012. I decided to go back to school to get my GED, I plan on getting my drivers license in September and would like to become a Practical Nurse. My daughter is almost 2 years old and is doing great; she is very intelligent. She is my angel and my reason to always fight for life!
*Live your life*
I would like to thank all my family and friends for all of their support and prayers during my dark moments. Also, a big thank you to the team at Saint John Regional Hospital, Dr. D, my three amazing nurses A.M, V.C, S.M and Dr. F in Moncton – I owe you my life.