My name is Sheniqua Fletcher. I am 28 years old and I live in Cambridge, Maryland. I am a stay-at-home, single mother of an 11-year-old son. My son is my whole world. I also have amazing friends, family and a mother, without whom, I would not be here today. This is my TTP survivor story.
Sunday, November 10, 2013 was just like any other day with nothing out of the ordinary until I sat down for dinner. Around 4 pm, I started cooking dinner and when it was ready to eat I was hit with a sudden headache. It was so intense that I could not eat. When I tried to stand to start cleaning the dishes away, I was really dizzy. So I had my son put my food away and told him I was going to lie down, I took some Tylenol and went to sleep.
A few hours later, the headache was so severe, it woke me up out of my sleep. This continued well into the next day. By 5 pm, Monday I still couldn’t walk and I had passed out in my living room. I also experienced vomiting and diarrhea. By this time I finally decided I needed to seek help. I called my mother and asked her to take me to the hospital. By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was completely out of it.
They ran blood tests and diagnosed me as being anaemic with a blood count of 4,000. They also told me that I had a stomach virus and sent me home with pain medicine for my headache. It was suggested that I check in with my primary doctor in a few days. The following day, the diarrhea and vomiting went away; however, I still had a great deal of difficulty getting around, as the headache and dizziness persisted. I also began experiencing chest pains when I tried to walk. The only time I felt somewhat okay was when I was laying down.
Over the next few days, my headache, dizziness and chest pains continued but I also began to notice bruising all over my body. My skin was getting paler by the day and I started getting slight nosebleeds. On Thursday, I went to my primary doctor and she ordered more blood tests. That evening I went over to my mother’s house for dinner just to get out of the house because lying around in bed was getting extremely uncomfortable. I fell asleep and woke up in so much pain. My mother and sister had a heck of a time getting me back home to bed.
That Thursday night was hell! I started having severe chest pains that woke me out my sleep. Enough was enough! I went back to the hospital, once again completely out of it and in extreme pain. They did blood tests again and told me that my blood count was under 4,000 and that I was in critical condition. I was told I would need a blood transfusion right way and that I was being admitted as soon as I received them. I received four blood transfusions and was admitted but they still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was perfectly healthy before this, my only hospital stay had been giving birth to my son.
The ICU doctor decided because he couldn’t figure out what was wrong that he was going totransfer me to the University of Maryland Medical Center, two hours away from where I lived. By this point, I knew this was very serious and to say I was scared out of my mind is an understatement! I had so many reasons to live, mainly my son, and my worry for him outweighed everything. All I could think was, “what if this was something deadly? I am only 28, what could this possibly be?” I would soon find out.
I was transported to UMMC, and as soon as I arrived, I was told that they believed I had a rare blood disorder called TTP. The next day, I was given my very first plasma exchange. My experience with the plasma exchange was very difficult because I’m allergic to so many things. I broke out in hives very badly and had to be treated with Benadryl. I received plasma exchange therapy for four days with good results before they stopped them to monitor to me. However, 3 days after they stopped the exchanges, my blood platelets dropped from 243,000 to 132,000. This resulted in four more days of plasma exchange therapy, and another week in the hospital.
I remember being very upset because it was Thanksgiving and I had never been away from my son during holidays. After four days of plasma exchange with good results, the doctors decided to try a medicine called rituximab. After receiving the rituximab, my platelets continued to rise. I was released from the hospital three days after receiving the new medicine, and was scheduled for three more treatments as an outpatient. Unfortunately, my insurance company denied the outpatient treatment of the medicine, which delayed my treatment, causing me to relapse again.
Seven days after being released from UMMC, I was once again admitted into the hospital. My platelets had dropped from 295,000 to 112,000. I was devastated!
I had to get another catheter in my neck for the third time and go through plasma exchange therapy again. I did plasma exchange for another four days and received another rituximab treatment. One week later I was released, this time I was sent home with a central line in my chest in case I relapsed again. My blood platelets are now 301,000 and I have one more treatment to receive. I also have to take prednisone and a lot of other medicines, but I am alive and finally on the road to recovery. Going through something like this really changes one’s outlook on life and shows who really loves you, and is there for you unconditionally. I have the greatest support team! My family and friends were there for me the entire time in hospital and continue to be there for me (I was released only 4 days ago).
I owe a great BIG thank you to the doctors and nurses at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Words will never explain the gratitude I feel for them, they are family to me now and I will never forget what they did for me. I also I owe a thank you to my mother and best friend. My mom did not leave my side the entire time I had been sick. She is one of the best mothers in the world and I pray that I one day live up to the brand of mother she is.
I know this is definitely not the last that I will see of TTP. I survived my first go around and I plan on surviving anything else TTP throws my way.
This is my story of having TTP and I hope my story helps someone else going through it. I have TTP and I am 3 in 1 MILLION!