My name is Jacqueline Thériaul. I am 50 years old, I live in St-Isidore, NB with my husband Steve, and I am the mother of two boys, Jason (26 years) and Jeff (24 years). I have been an educational assistant since 1981, though now after TTP, I am not able to work asmuch as I did before because I require a lot of rest.
My symptoms started in March of 2007, but unlike others who are diagnosed with TTP, I had a good feeling right away that I knew what was wrong, because on September 1, 1984, at the age of 24, my sister Rollande died of TTP. She was pregnant at the time and confused many of her symptoms with what she thought to be normal for symptoms of pregnancy. By the time she recognized that she needed medical attention and received treatment, it was too late. She passed away in Saint Johns.
In March of 2007, I noticed myself feeling uncharacteristically tired all the time and when I noticed the rash on my arms and legs on March 13, 2007, the combination of symptoms sent up a red flag for me as what I had seen during my sister’s short battle with TTP. I took myself directly to the hospital because I knew I had to be treated quickly. I told whoever would listen to me at the hospital about TTP, my sister’s death, and that I thought I could have it. They ran blood tests, and sure enough, when the results came back, my platelets were low. I was really scared and worried because I knew this was serious, especially if it was confirmed that I had TTP. However, at this time I was not diagnosed with TTP, but instead I was told I had ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura), which is still a worrisome diagnosis, but at that time anything was better then a TTP diagnosis to me. TTP seemed like a death sentence because it had robbed me of my sister years before.
I was transferred to a hospital in Bathurst, where I stayed for three days as they treated me for ITP. On the third day, I took a turn for the worse and began having seizures. It was at this time that the doctors realized that they had misdiagnosed me. What followed was my worst fear come to life - a TTP diagnosis. TTP is a disease so complex that as I understand it, to this day it is not easy to diagnose.
It was decided that I would be transferred to the hospital of St. John by air because I was considered critical and required treatment immediately. Upon receiving news of my new diagnosis, my family came to Saint John to be with and support me through, what we believed would be an uphill battle. I can’t imagine how my family felt after receiving the news that I have what took my sister from us years before. I don’t remember much of my departure for St. John or the three following days as I was in what I can only describe as a state of confusion.
When I arrived at the Saint John Hospital, my platelets were 7, so they started treating me immediately with plasmapheresis. Dr. D was my assigned doctor and he proved to be an excellent hematologist, who, throughout my stay, treated me extremely well. I was in the Hospital of St. John from March 16 to May 28, 2007, and over that time period I received approximately 50 plasmaphersis treatments. I had good days and bad while in the hospital but I prayed a lot and stayed positive. I had a great will to live and not let this disease claim my life too! I was lucky to have my husband Steve, who was there for me the whole time, and also the endless support from my family, friends and co-workers.
After being released from the hospital in May 2007, I continued to go for weekly blood tests and required cleaning to the central line that they kept inserted in me should I require more treatments. In October, after 4 months of the weekly blood test schedule, it was reduced down to bi-weekly visits for blood tests and the central line came out! It was at this time that I started working again, which was a welcome distraction for me because I remember waiting impatiently each week for the results of blood test. Eventually, I was reduced to monthly blood tests because everything was looking good! But then, in January 2010, I relapsed.
Again, just like the time I was initially diagnosed with TTP, almost 3 years earlier, it was the rash that set off alarm bells and as soon as I noticed it, we went to the hospital. Blood tests showed that my platelets were at 8. So again, I was quickly transferred to the Hospital of St. John, where I stayed and received treatment from January 5 to March 20, 2010.
I received about 37 plasmapheresis treatments during my relapse. For the second time, the amazing Dr. D. was my medical hero. Upon my relapse, he even began to reach out to other doctors to find out more about TTP and what triggers it and what can be done to help prevent relapses. After careful research on his part and consideration on mine, we decided that I was a good a candidate for a spleenectomy and that it could be tremendously helpful for me in the future and on March 18, I had the spleenectomy.
Since then, I have been good with no relapses. I have noticed other changes, such as I am not able to be as active as I once was but I can work and keep up my daily routine with resting as I need. I also bruise a lot easier now and I have had to adjust my diet to ensure it reinforces my immune system with plenty of foods that contain iron, folic acid and multivitamins. But none of that compares to knowing I have survived TTP and seeing how beautiful life is! I still get regular blood testing done every 2 months but beyond that, I try to live and enjoy everyday!
I want to take this opportunity to thank all those people who I may never meet, but who cared enough to donate their blood, which saved my life! I received a lot of blood during my plasmaphersis treatments and I cannot thank you enough. Also, thank you to everyone who continues to donate their gift of blood to save lives like ours, the TTP patients! The gift that you give us is invaluable because it is thanks to YOU I am, and many other TTP patients are, alive. We are able to continue our lives with our families and spouses, we are able to watch our children grow; this is the best gift you can give someone.