Like many college students, Meghan thought she was just struggling with “the freshman ten” when she put on a few extra pounds her sophomore year. But when she went home for Thanksgiving, her mom insisted on a visit to the doctor. Test results were inconclusive, so Meghan headed back to school.
The weight gain continued and Meghan no longer had the energy to keep up with her typically active lifestyle. She spent most of her time on the couch which was very unusual for a girl as active as Meghan. She called her mom to bring her home because she was too weak to finish the semester.
Her primary care physician admitted her to the hospital and Meghan arrived the next morning when a bed was available. Her hemoglobin was so low that when she stood up from the bed, she passed out. They gave her several blood transfusions and high doses of steroids to combat the symptoms. Then came the startling diagnosis: Meghan had thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)/hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). TTP/HUS is a rare blood disorder that causes blood clots to form in small blood vessels around the body and leads to a low platelet count, often damaging the kidneys.
Cards, letters and emails from friends and family flooded her room as she began chemotherapy treatment. She received plasma transfusions (up to 17 per day in a plasma exchange) while undergoing kidney dialysis every other day. Her doctors told her that they were doing everything they could and that she had a 50% chance of recovery. In the meantime, she had to abstain from any activity that might cause bleeding, even flossing her teeth.
In late January, Meghan’s rheumatologist recommended a promising treatment that was offered overseas. Her condition improved with the new treatment. Meghan left the hospital after 89 days and 987 blood transfusions.
She continued the outpatient dialysis for several months. Doctors had expected to place Meghan on the kidney transplant list, but she amazed them by making a complete recovery. “Blood donors gave my body the time it needed to get better,” Meghan said. “Without them my body would have shut down.”
Meghan completed her degree on time from Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Today, she works in healthcare and enjoys each day to the fullest. She and her husband, Ray, live in Phoenix with their daughter, Farrah.